FLUSHING, NEW YORK, February 10, 2016 — In its first New York showing, Mark Podwal’s “Terezin Portfolio,” a limited edition suite of 42 archival pigment prints based on a series of original acrylic, gouache, and colored pencil drawings entitled All this has come upon us… will be on view at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College. The exhibition, open to the public from April 4 to June 4, 2016, including Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 5, celebrates the recent donation of the portfolio by Podwal, a Queens College alumnus, physician and artist.
The original works for the portfolio were first exhibited in 2014 at the Terezin Ghetto Museum in the Czech Republic and, in Podwal’s words, “are disturbing reminders of how the extensive history of anti-Semitism laid the groundwork for the Holocaust.” Each print depicts a tragedy or injustice experienced by Jews throughout history, paired with biblical Hebrew verses from the Book of Psalms. Resembling pages of a book, the works directly reference the term “People of the Book,” often used to describe the Jewish people and their relationship to the Torah. Last year, The Atlantic described Podwal’s art as “deceivingly abstract and playfully colorful, yet…just as powerful in depicting the history of injustice.”
Jewish-themed works from the museum’s permanent collection and facsimiles of prints, book folios and an original manuscript from the Jewish Theological Seminary Library, will complement and match the historical sequence of the portfolio. A documentary film depicting Podwal’s creative process, produced by Czech TV and shot in Auschwitz and New York (first aired on the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation), will be shown during the exhibition. As Podwal says in the film, “The humiliations, persecutions, and massacres of Jews by Nazi Germany all had their precedence in the Middle Ages, including ghettos, distinct clothing, slaughters, and exiles in Europe. In comparison with the magnitude of the Holocaust, these earlier sufferings tend to be forgotten.”
The portfolio commences in Pharaonic Egypt and moves through the numerous conquests of Jerusalem, Babylonian exile, Roman destruction of the Second Temple, and the Crusader era; and in the modern European period, the Inquisition, pogroms and the Holocaust. It ends with two works incorporating potent visual symbols which reinforce the faith and struggle of the Jewish people. In “Kaddish,” also the Jewish prayer for the dead, the Torah is strewn with flowers in a poetic meditation on God's greatness and the fragility of life. In "The Song of 1948," a Menorah sprouting the seven biblical fruits is paired with the Israeli flag and Psalm126:5("Those who plant in tears will harvest in joy"), a bittersweet reflection on the return to the homeland.
An internationally recognized artist and author, whose exhibition Mozart and Prague is also opening in April at Prague’s venerable Klementinum Library, Podwal is well known for his drawings for The New York Times Op-Ed page, his special-edition prints for The Metropolitan Opera and his decorative plates and prints for The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His work is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Jewish Museum in New York, the Library of Congress, and many other institutions around the world. Since 1977, Podwal has been represented by Forum Gallery in New York City. He has published 11 books and illustrated 19 others, including collaborations with Elie Wiesel, Cynthia Ozick and Harold Bloom. In addition to being an artist, Dr. Podwal is a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine.
A series of public programs has been organized to complement the exhibition and explore its themes:
March 22, 2016, 6-7 pm, Lecture, “The Ideological Roots of the Holocaust: Ancient, Medieval, or Modern?” by David Engel, Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor of Holocaust Studies, Skirball Center, New York University. Lecture is at Baruch College, Wasserman Jewish Studies Center.
April 7, 2016, 3-6 pm, Exhibition Press Preview at Godwin-Ternbach Museum.
6-8 pm, Exhibition opening including a conversation with Mark Podwal and GTM director and curator Amy H. Winter on the Terezin Portfolio, Podwal’s career, and his artistic practice, followed by a public reception.
April 11, 2016, 5-6 pm, Performance of creative responses by QC students to the art and artifacts in the Terezin Portfolio exhibition, organized in partnership with CERRU: Center for Ethnic, Religious, and Racial Understanding.
April 14, 2016, 6-8 pm, “Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the 20th Century”: A Panel Discussion at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum with:
David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and Professor of Talmudic and Rabbinic Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary, Moderator
Steven Fine, Jews and Judaism in the Roman Empire, Dr. Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History, Yeshiva University
Robert Chazan, Medieval Jewish History, S.H. and Helen R. Scheuer Professor of Holocaust Studies, Skirball Center for Hebraic and Jewish Studies, New York University
Elissa Bemporad, Modern Jewish European Studies, Jerry and William Ungar Professor in Eastern European Jewish History and the Holocaust, Queens College
May 2, 2016, 12:15-1:30 pm. Screening of Oren Jacoby’s Oscar-nominated film “My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes” at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum. Narrated by Isabella Rossellini, the documentary tells the story of the rescue of thousands of Italian Jews during World War II.
May 5, 2016, 6-7 pm, Syrian director and human rights activist Naila al Atrash will speak about the current exodus of refugees from her homeland. Queens College students will perform artistic recitations of writings by Syrian exiles, followed by a discussion contrasting the current crisis with the mid-20th-century Jewish experience. This program, at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, is presented in collaboration with the Scholars at Risk Network, New York University.
Queens College is located at the corner of the Long Island Expressway and Kissena Boulevard (Exit 24) in Flushing. For driving and public transportation directions, visit http://www.qc.cuny.edu/directions. Google maps: http://bit.ly/1K4I93I
ABOUT THE GODWIN-TERNBACH MUSEUM
The Godwin-Ternbach Museum, a part of Queens College’s Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, presents contemporary and historical exhibitions and programs that provide exciting educational opportunities and aesthetic experiences to residents of the borough of Queens and neighboring Manhattan and Long Island. As the only collection of art and artifacts in the borough housing over 6,000 objects that date from ancient to modern times, the museum introduces many individuals to works they might not otherwise encounter, often for the first time. Lectures, symposia, gallery talks, workshops, films, concerts, and tours as well as digital displays, catalogues, and an active website complement and interpret the art on view, to serve the needs and interests of local communities. All exhibitions and programs are free.