By Ben Schachter
In The Hare with Amber Eyes, author Edmund de Waal follows his family history back to turn of the century Vienna. His guide is a collection of Japanese netsuke figurines. The journey begins when he inherits the collection and wonders how did his family come to own them? Along the way, he visits magnificent mansions, now emptied of their contents. Each façade proclaims the influence and societal acceptance of his family and an entire way of life that thrived in Vienna - wealthy influential Jewish dynasties. During his quest, de Waal found traces of familial estates and imagines their interiors and the people who lived in them. He tells a good tail and he is also an artist whose sensitive delicate porcelain collections evoke personal histories and lives lived by others.
And so The Hare with Amber Eyes is the literary version of his visual art. A local history 2012, is an excellent example. A small time capsule like box is sunken into the floor. In it a stack of delicate porcelains act like a pristine find of a lifestyle and people whom once lived nearby. But because of the cleanliness and ordered appearance of the whole, those people might return at any moment, albeit from some not so recent past.
No wonder his work came to mind when I read of Barbara Bloom’s recent curatorial project at the Jewish Museum, “As it were… So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom.” Bloom was invited to curate an exhibition using objects from the Museum’s collection. Bloom is also an artist well known for her installations that include furniture, household and art objects. These collections illicit the feeling of specific interiors, either decorated with purpose or merely assembled as one acquires stuff. Each one however, calls to mind a specific person, or distinct personality as if the viewer could understand him or her just by being in the company of their things.
Continue article on the Jewish Art Theory Blog here.