Using Walls, Floors, and Ceilings: Chantal Joffe

1 May 2015 – 18 Oct 2015

Jewish Museum

New York
New York, United States

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Hannah, Gertrude, Alice, Betty, Nadine, Golda, Susan, Claude, Nancy, Grace, Diane..... is a series of thirty four portraits by London-based painter Chantal Joffe, which will hang salon-style throughout the lobby of the Jewish Museum.


Joffe has long focused on portraiture and, for this new body of work, she explores Jewish women of the 20th century. Personages who made major contributions to art, literature, philosophy and politics such as Diane Arbus, Nancy Spero, Gertrude A. Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Susan Sontag, and Hannah Arendt are represented as both children and adults. Implicitly included here are the women who perished during the Shoah, whose creativity and intellect were lost to history.  

Joffe’s style is direct and gestural. These are not exact or “true” depictions but charged with the artist's technical, conceptual, and emotional responses. Joffe is typically well acquainted with her subjects, but as this group is no longer with us, she had to look further to find vital connections which spurred the creation of the work. She conducted months of research, gathering both well-known and obscure texts and images. Through this slow process of looking, reading, and watching, she built worlds around herself and the women, whom she has represented at various stages in their lives, during moments both big and small. Bringing together these historical figures creates a universal family album, a tribute to their contributions as well as inspiration for all those in the present, still able to leave their mark. 


Using Walls, Floors, and Ceilings: Chantal Joffe is organized by Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs, and Kelly Taxter, Assistant Curator.

Using Walls, Floors, and Ceilings: Chantal Joffe is made possible by the generous support of Wendy Fisher.


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