Museum of Contemporary Religious Art

February 18, 2012

Why Are You Showing . . . ?

I was asked recently why MOCRA is showing Archie Granot’s Papercut Haggadah for our next exhibition.  That’s not an uncommon question for us to field, and it can sometimes be tricky identifying just what constitutes art that engages the religious and spiritual dimensions. However, that’s not the case this time around.

The Papercut Haggadah is a fine example of work by a contemporary visual artist who is in dialogue with the great faith traditions but who also brings contemporary concerns and modes of expression to bear on those traditions. In this case, Granot is exploring the sacred text and ritual of the Haggadah through a traditional medium often associated with folk art — papercutting. But he expands the conventional book format of the Haggadah into individual pages highlighting particular passages from the text, and in contrast to the illustrational art often found in Haggadot, he employs his own vocabulary of geometric forms and subtle references to Israel and Judaica. In so doing, he shows the vitality both of the Jewish tradition and of contemporary artistic expressions of faith.

This exhibition also helps further our aim of being a center for interfaith understanding and dialogue. The Jewish community plays an important role in the social fabric of St. Louis, and we hope that The Papercut Haggadah will provide an opportunity for members of the local Jewish community to explore their own tradition, and at the same time open a window into the celebration of Passover for people of other faith traditions.

— David Brinker, Assistant Director

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The Papercut Haggadah opens 2/26/12 at MOCRA

MOCRA’s next exhibition is titled Archie Granot: The Papercut Haggadah. Israeli artist Archie Granot was commissioned to present the story and rituals of the Passover Seder in the traditional medium of papercutting. The resulting 55 pages employ intricate geometric and abstract shapes and calligraphic text to create an exquisite, unique version of the Haggadah.

A free public opening reception will be held on Sunday, February 26, 2012, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Collectors Sandra and Max Thurm, who commissioned the work, will be in attendance. The exhibition will be on display at MOCRA through May 20, 2012.

Click here to visit the exhibition page on MOCRA’s website, or continue reading to learn more about the show.

Archie Granot, The Papercut Haggadah, Page 46.

Archie Granot, The Papercut Haggadah, Page 46. 1998-2007. Collection of Sandra and Max Thurm. Courtesy of the artist.

About the exhibition

Haggadah (הַגָּדָה) is Hebrew for “telling,” namely, the telling of the Exodus story at the Seder service during the Jewish festival of Pesach, or Passover. The term also signifies a book that contains the ritual guide to the Seder, along with scripture passages, commentary, prayers, and songs. For centuries the Haggadah has been one of the most celebrated items of Jewish literature and art, and there are many examples of both handwritten and printed Haggadot with intricate illustrations. In each generation artists continue the tradition of reinterpreting the Haggadah for contemporary believers.

Commissioned by Sandra and Max Thurm, Archie Granot’s Papercut Haggadah was handcrafted using the Jewish folk art tradition of papercutting. The result is a series of 55 pages that employ intricate geometric and abstract shapes and calligraphic text to create an exquisite version of the Haggadah.

Granot evokes the intense emotions attached with the Passover Seder by utilizing geometric and abstract shapes instead of the usual symbols. Every word of Hebrew text in his Haggadah is handcut, with each page standing as both an independent work of art and a single piece of a beautiful, thematically unified whole. Each page of his multi-layered paper pieces (some nearly an inch thick) tackles a certain aspect or song associated with the Seder, such as “Ma Nishtanah” (מה נשתנה, The Four Questions), or “Pesach, Matzah, Maror” (פֶּסַח, The Passover Offering; מַצָּה, the Unleavened Bread; and מָרוֹר, the Bitter Herb), which incorporates shapes that evoke the traditional matzah.

About the artist

Archie Granot was born in London in 1946 and moved to Israel in 1967. Prior to settling in Jerusalem in 1978, he was a member of an agricultural community where he milked cows and grew melons. He earned a M.Phil. in Russian Studies from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and a B.A. in Political Science and Russian Studies from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Granot started papercutting in 1979, and maintains a studio and gallery in Jerusalem. Many of his papercuts carry a reminder of the Holy City, a source of his inspiration, and he often employs texts that relate to Israel, Judaism, and Judaica. Granot has had solo exhibitions in the United States, Israel, and Germany, and has participated in group exhibitions in France and Japan. His works are found in public collections in Israel, Germany, England, and the United States, as well as numerous private collections.

— David Brinker, Assistant Director

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