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Jonathan Hammer: Kovno-Kobe

Derfner Judaica Museum
5901 Palisade Avenue, The Hebrew Home at Riverdale, 718-581-1596
April 29 - July 29, 2012
Reception: Sunday, April 29, 3:30 - 5 PM
Web Site

Kovno-Kobe features Jonathan Hammer’s pastels, drawings, etchings and a bifold screen of diverse animal skins tooled in precious metals that reference events in Lithuania during the Holocaust. The work was inspired by an incident in the summer of 1940, following the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, when the Japanese Consul in Kovno, Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara, issued 2,140 handwritten transit visas to Jewish refugees in the city. The series also references the mass murder of Lithuanian Jews following the German invasion in June 1941.

Drawing on Dada, Surrealism and Neo-Conceptualism, Hammer employs a visual vocabulary of figurative and semi-abstract forms. The finely rendered and ironically delicate images of his etchings, for example, represent both victims and victimizers, evoking violence, mortality and the disintegration of the self. The works conjure the nightmares of the unconscious – puzzle fragments of humanity shaped by patterned animal skins – while contrasting opulence and beauty with violence and death. One may identify the shower head of the gas chambers, the Angel of Death, the ink blots that read as massed corpses, the ubiquitous trains; and such figures of cultural memory as a Jewish patriarch, Mt. Fuji or the Rising Sun, Japanese symbols.

A parallel exhibition, exploring the same themes in new work, Paranormal Nightlight is on view at MIYAKO YOSHINAGA art prospects in Chelsea from April 26 through June 2. It is Hammer’s eighth one-person exhibition in New York City and his second with MIYAKO YOSHINAGA art prospects, and features pastels on paper, an installation on slate, and Hammer’s first exhibited canvases. For further details, visit

Jonathan Hammer is an American artist living in Spain. For 25 years his work has crossed the boundaries of various media and techniques using materials such as exotic skins and porcelain and including books, works on paper (pastels, silverpoints), installation, sculpture, standing screens, photographs and prints. Hammer has had 40 one-person exhibitions (including eight in New York, five with Matthew Marks Gallery) in eight countries, and museum surveys at the Geneva Center for Contemporary Art and the Berkeley Museum. His work is included in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles among others. Hammer is an authority on DADA and has published his critical writing on the subject in Ball and Hammer (Yale University Press, 2002). For further information, visit

A concurrent exhibition of Hammer’s silverpoint works, Tarnish and Shine: Silverpoint Drawings, will also be on view at the Hebrew Home in the Elma and Milton A. Gilbert Pavilion Gallery from April 29 – July 29, 2012. For further information, visit the Gilbert Pavilion Gallery’s page at

As a member of the American Association of Museums, The Hebrew Home at Riverdale is committed to publicly exhibiting its art collection throughout its 19-acre campus, including the Derfner Judaica Museum and a sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. The Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection provide educational and cultural programming for residents of the Hebrew Home, their families and the general public from throughout New York City, its surrounding suburbs and visitors from elsewhere. The Home is a nonprofit, non-sectarian geriatric center serving more than 3,000 elderly persons through its resources and community service programs. Museum hours: Sunday – Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Art Collection open daily, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Call for holiday hours or for further information, visit our website at

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
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