Artist Archie Rand and "The "613"

Archie Rand

Archie Rand, artist and muralist, has a mission to make Jewish art. “We are 2,000 years behind the times—we have 2,000 years of iconographic catch-up to do and there are just not enough hours in the day. So this kind of stuff has to be turned out simply as product to verify the legitimacy of all of the sensate appetites. There are five senses and the visual sense has been relegated,” he told the Hebrew College audience.

In a conversation with artist and Jewish art consultant, Shirah Rubin, at Hebrew College on January 21, Rand shared the unlikely story of how as a young accomplished artist he made a foray into Jewish art with a commission to create an 8,000 square foot mural at Congregation Bnai Yosef in Brooklyn.  He explained, “There was no precedent, no Jewish iconography; Jewish and iconography hardly ever get put in the same sentence. I had to invent one.”

In 2003 he took on his biggest project yet—it took five years to complete—to create an image for each of the 613 Biblical commandments. “The one thing I didn’t want to do is to make pictures that were illustrative because then the text would take over and the picture would not only become redundant but irrelevant. . .  The only way that this work functions is if one is free to have a subjective response to it and make up your own midrashim, which is what pictures actually do.”

You can also purchase a signed copy of “The 613”(Blue Rider Press) at Wellesley Books.

 “The 613” will be on exhibit at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in 2017.