“The central goal of an artist is to create an image that radiates sanctity… that creates an environment, an ambience, a sacred space.” –David Gelernter
As a field-changing computer scientist, author and critic, David Gelernter occupies a unique place in American intellectual life – “at the intersection of technology, art, politics, and religion,” wrote the Seattle Times. People now have the opportunity to experience his work as a painter, which Gelernter describes as his true calling. His images pulsate with energy and color – and with challenging ideas. Yeshiva University Museum is presenting the first museum exhibition of Gelernter’s entrancing word paintings, based on phrases from the Hebrew Bible, Jewish liturgy and other sources, as well as an arresting series of monumental new works based on Christian tomb sculpture, which capture portraits of the great Hebrew Biblical kings. Sh’ma/Listen: The Art of David Gelernter features 27 paintings and 2 drawings – executed in a striking range of media, including acrylic, oil, pastel, aquarelle (water-soluble crayons), liquid iron, and gold and metal leaf.
“Beauty is central to Judaism,” Gelernter contends in this film. “There’s no more fundamental drive in Judaism than the drive to be beautiful. It is intrinsic to Judaism, and it has to propel the art of Judaism, which is properly at the head-of-the-table of Western art. This is where the idea of Christian and, thus, of European art emerged from; and Jewish art needs to be bold enough to take the lead.” He speaks candidly about the 1993 Unabomber attack that left him critically injured. “One of the most troubling things for me was … I thought I’d never be able to paint again. But doctors and nurses told me, ‘It’s all in your head’. And it’s true. Sometimes the reassuring things people tell you are true.” After the attack, the right-handed artist re-learned painting with his left hand.
David Gelernter, a “probably genius” according to The Atlantic, is professor of computer science at Yale and a widely published author and scholar of American culture, computer software and the human mind, and Judaism. Many of Gelernter’s science-focused books, including Machine Beauty (Basic Books, 1998) and The Muse in the Machine (Free Press, 2002), draw on his love of aesthetics and assert the need for computers to accommodate the basic human inclination toward beauty.
Film by Oren Rudavsky
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