Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rattner: From Henry Miller thru Louise Schatz to Itche Mambush in Ein Hod

"Tapestries of Abraham Rattner" is the current jewel among several shows at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art.
Abraham Rattner was a Jewish American painter, printmaker, poet and tapestry designer. He was a close friend of the writer Henry Miller. Miller's sister-in-law Louise Schatz (1916-1997), wife of Bezalel Schatz, lived and worked in Jerusalem and Ein Hod.
Nine wall hangings from the permanent collection have never been shown together at the museum. Rattner (1893-1978) worked on their designs for years, then oversaw their creation during 1971 at the Mambush Tapestry Workshop in Ein Hod, a vibrant artists colony in Israel. There, master weavers trained in traditional European techniques dating back to the Middle Ages interpreted Rattner's bold images into exquisitely executed tapestries.
We know that in the right hands, threads strung on a loom can be woven into an image as tonally nuanced as a painting or photograph. The Rattner tapestries mostly are more straightforward, the equivalent of abstract art with pattern and surface color made cohesive with strong black lines.
Five are devoted to dramatic moments in the life of Moses. Moses and the Burning Bush is the only nominally figurative subject, showing a crouching prophet as the angel appears amid flames and lightning bolts. Other stories, again about the burning bush and the tablets bearing the 10 Commandments, are conveyed in dramatic maelstroms of line and color.
The group has two secular tapestries, one an homage to the French writer and film director Jean Cocteau, who was an old friend of Rattner's, and the other titled Birds, to me the most beautiful of the group. Simplified white birds swirl on a blue background, forming a vortex above a "sun" made like prismed stained glass.

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