Archie Rand’s ‘The 613’ coming to Memorial Art Gallery

Messenger Post Media
Monroe County Post

The Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave., Rochester, will explore traditions of biblical interpretation and artistic expression with “The 613” by painter and muralist Archie Rand from April 24 to July 18 in the Docent Gallery. 

“The 613” is a multi-panel painting that depicts responses to the 613 commandments of the Torah, which is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. This installation exemplifies Rand’s achievements in the construction of a contemporary Jewish iconography. 

Interrogation is a common strategy among the individual panels, as the images may underscore, contradict and obscure the teachings of the referenced commandments. Quoting works by artists such as Paul Cézanne and Edouard Manet, and enlisting imagery from mainstream media and Jewish comic artists, Rand interweaves visual culture and Jewish scripture, which has been interpreted historically to forbid the creation of idols, images and art.

“The 613” also challenges commonly held beliefs about expression and representation. By linking the Torah’s commandments with unrelated pictures, Rand undermines how people usually expect words and images to function when juxtaposed. 

His loose, pulp fiction-inspired, cartoon-like painterly style is as irreverent to the history of painting as it is to the religious tradition it purports to explicate. The complexity of the project encourages an investigation of both systems of knowledge, that of art history and Judaism. “The 613” fundamentally is a study of the mechanics of tradition and how meaning is made.

“Archie Rand’s fluid, illustrational style belies a sophisticated philosophy that challenges viewers to rethink preconceptions of how words and images interrelate, and what we mean when we say a picture is worth a thousand words,” director Jonathan Binstock said. “MAG is thrilled to bring ‘The 613,’ a powerful, immersive aesthetic experience and an extraordinary artistic accomplishment by any measure, to Rochester.”

The exhibition will include the animated short film “Kol Nidre #3” and a book reproducing the work in full color. Visit mag.rochester.edu for information.

Archie Rand’s “Not to Insult or Harm Anybody with Words” is one of the 614 panels comprising “The 613.”