“Men of Steel and Women of Valor” is an art exhibition made for Cleveland, literally, according to a release from The Temple Museum of Jewish Art, Religion and Culture at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood.
Blending pop culture and traditional Jewish narratives in seamless graphic compositions made of cut-up comic books, Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik’s work is emblematic of the 21st century’s mash-up culture.
Brynjegard-Bialik includes comics in his work to draw parallels between comic book mythologies and religious traditions, delving into the stories that make us human. This exhibition focuses heavily on Superman, created in Cleveland in the 1930s by two Jews from Glenville High School, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – portraits of whom are included in the show, made of cut-up Superman comics from the past 90 years.
At the heart of the exhibition is a series of large-scale portraits, as a nod to the Jewish custom of inviting guests into one’s sukkah during the fall festival of Sukkot. Brynjegard-Bialik has turned comics featuring Superman and Lois Lane, Daredevil and Elektra, the Fantastic Four and more, into the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs: Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebekah; and Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.
“The comics are a commentary on the stories of our ancestors,” Brynjegard-Bialik stated in the release. “Jacob’s story involves the hiding of one’s identity, and the discovery of one’s true self, so his portrait is made of Clark Kent, Superman’s alter ego and the mask he wears.”
The exhibition also includes portraits of Golda Meir, Israel’s first female prime minister, and former Clevelander Sally Priesand, America’s first female rabbi. The portraits share the walls with landscapes of Jerusalem, stories of fire and water and cloud, and explorations of the Mishnah – all made out of cut-up comic books. It’s a dynamic mash-up of old and new “with the architectural presence of stained glass, the whimsy of gilded-age fairy tales, and the meditative aura of illuminated manuscripts” (Shana Nys Dambrot, KCET Artbound).
“I hope these portraits are a reminder that at the heart of our tradition are the ideas of welcoming people into our lives, building community, and recognizing the hero in everyone,” Brynjegard-Bialik stated in the release.
“Men of Steel and Women of Valor” is on exhibit through December at The Temple Museum of Jewish Art, Religion and Culture at The Temple-Tifereth Israel. The artist will be in the gallery for an opening weekend Oct. 11 to Oct. 13, 2019.
To schedule a tour, call The Temple at 216-831-3233.