The Language of Jewish Art

Question: What balance do\r\nyou strike between your teaching, writing, science, and art?


David Gelernter:\r\nNowadays, I spend my time mainly painting.  I have\r\n an exhibition coming up.  Generally speaking, I \r\nspend more time painting than doing\r\nanything else, except for writing. \r\nI’ve been writing pieces for—some pieces connected with DLD where\r\n I got\r\nto meet Frank Schumacher, who's been associated with the meeting for \r\nsome time, and\r\nis an editor and publisher at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and a \r\nremarkable guy.  So, I agreed to write a series of\r\npieces for them and he’s a wonderful guy and I think Europe is more \r\ninterested\r\nin the implications as opposed to the immediate market meaning of\r\ntechnology.   I mean, I don’t\r\nthink people are better educated or more thoughtful or any different, \r\nthey’ve\r\njust got a somewhat different focus. \r\nI think growing out of the nature of the European market and the \r\norigin\r\nof so much of the technology in the United States gives them one degree \r\nof remove,\r\nwhich I think is useful.  There’s a\r\nlot of thoughtful people over there.


Question: What is the\r\nfocus of your new art exhibition?


David Gelernter:\r\nWell, let’s see, this is the latest of a series of exhibits at Yale, \r\nwhich is a\r\ngood place for me to exhibit.  I\r\nlike to sell paintings, not from galleries, but from a more informal,\r\none-on-one way, and so a non-commercial gallery space in which to \r\nexhibit, is, for\r\nme, very useful.  I mainly—I’ve\r\nbeen trying for many years, I should say for many decades at this point,\r\n to\r\nfigure out what Jewish art is, if there is such a thing. \r\n It’s come to seem to me that Jewish art\r\nis paintings of words.  Not just\r\npaintings in which words appear, or words on a wall, but paintings in \r\nwhich the\r\nwords themselves have meaning and decorative significance and conceptual\r\n weight.  It’s hard to describe an image,\r\nespecially one that is somewhat idiosyncratic, but anyway. \r\n General idea.


Question: How does\r\nJudaism shape your work?


David Gelernter:\r\nGenetically, to begin with.  When I\r\ndo think up pictures, my own job description is an image thinker, as \r\nmany\r\npeople have been, and what I do is a matter of the images that float \r\nthrough my\r\nhead.  Many people think in images,\r\nit’s hard to say how many. \r\nCertainly many people think in images some of the time.  Many people think in images virtually\r\nall the time.  When I’m working in\r\nsoftware, I’m thinking of the picture that needs to appear on the screen\r\n or\r\nthat needs to appear in the user’s head in order to make sense of the \r\nsoftware.  In the studio, more directly, I try and\r\ntake as any painter does, as any artist does, tries to take what is in \r\nhis head\r\nand make it concrete which is a constant—which is a struggle, which \r\nisn’t easy,\r\nbut is what art has always been about. 


When I write, I tend to write vividly or try to \r\nwrite\r\nvividly, and it’s also a matter of the images that drift through one’s\r\nhead.  So, this is the way I deal\r\nwith the world, picture-wise.

Recorded on April 1, 2010.

Throughout the history of Jewish culture, the image has been inseparable from the word.

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