Louise Fishman’s Paint Golem

Article in the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM

Emily D. Bilski

Louise Fishman’s painting encapsulates both the process of making a golem and the created golem itself. The work reveals Fishman’s fascination with the physical properties of oil paint. Likening painting to working in wet clay, she has spoken of using paint as a sculptural material. Building up an energized surface with thickly impastoed paint strokes applied with a palette knife, Fishman’s vigorous manipulation of her medium creates forms with the presence and authority of objects. This is the result of months of scraping and repainting, before the painting emerges as a new entity, a process that, in its difficulty, Fishman has compared to making a golem.

The artist’s gestures—the movements of her arm and hand—are reflected in the strong directional character of the arcs of paint that surround the central circular motifs, and radiate out from them towards the corners of the composition. These dynamic circular forms, with their powerful thrust of direction, recall the actions of the medieval mystics, who would create a golem figure from earth and then animate it by circling it on foot while reciting incantations.

Resembling foetuses, the two central forms offer a concise visual expression of a golem as an entity embodying tremendous potential: a creature in the process of becoming, waiting to unleash its energy.

Emily D. Bilski is an art historian, the main focus of her work is the interface between art, cultural history, and the modern Jewish experience as well as contemporary art. She works as a curator and counselor for museums in the United States, Europe, and Israel. Her books Berlin Metropolis: Jews and the New Culture: 1890-1918 (1999) and Jewish Women and Their Salons: The Power of Conversation (2005) were both awarded the National Jewish Book Award.

Two black circular figures on yellow and white background.

Louise Fishman, USA, 1981
Oil on canvas, 81.3 x 121.9 cm
The Jewish Museum New York, Gift of Francine and Samuel Klagsbrun

Citation recommendation:

Emily D. Bilski (2016), Louise Fishman’s Paint Golem. Article in the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM.
URL: www.jmberlin.de/en/node/4697

Golem as action figure (detail)

Online Edition of the GOLEM Catalog: Table of Contents

The Golem in Berlin: Introduction by Peter Schäfer
Chapter 1
The Golem Lives On: Introduction by Martina Lüdicke
My Light is Your Life: Text by Anna Dorothea Ludewig
Avatars: Text by Louisa Hall
The Secret of the Cyborgs: Text by Caspar Battegay
Chapter 2
Jewish Mysticism: Introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Golem Magic: Text by Martina Lüdicke
Golem, Language, Dada: Text by Emily D. Bilski
Chapter 3
Transformation: Introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Jana Sterbak’s Golem: Objects as Sensations: Text by Rita Kersting
Crisálidas (Chrysalises): Text by Jorge Gil
Rituals: Text by Christopher Lyon
A Golem that Ended Well: Text by Emily D. Bilski
On the Golem: Text by David Musgrave
Current page: Louise Fishman’s Paint Golem: Text by Emily D. Bilski
Chapter 4
Legendary Prague: Introduction by Martina Lüdicke
Golem Variations: Text by Peter Schäfer
Rabbi Loew’s Well-Deserved Bath: Text by Harold Gabriel Weisz Carrington
Chapter 5
Horror and Magic: Introduction by Martina Lüdicke
Golem and a Little Girl: Text by Helene Wecker
The Golem with a Group of Children Dancing: Text by Karin Harrasser
Bringing the Film Set To Life: Text by Anna-Carolin Augustin
Golem and Mirjam: Text by Cathy S. Gelbin
Chapter 6
Out of Control: Introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Golem—Man Awakened with Glowing Hammer: Text by Arno Pařík
Dangerous Symbols: Text by Charlotta Kotik
Be Careful What You Wish For: Text by Marc Estrin
Chapter 7
Doppelgänger: Introduction by Martina Lüdicke
From the Golem-Talmud: Text by Joshua Cohen
Kitaj’s Art Golem: Text by Tracy Bartley
The Golem as Techno-Imagination?: Text by Cosima Wagner
See also
GOLEM: 2016, online edition with selected texts of the exhibition catalog
GOLEM: 2016, complete printed edition of the exhibition catalog, in German
Golem. From Mysticism to Minecraft: Online Feature, 2016
GOLEM: Exhibition, 23 Sep 2016 to 29 Jan 2017

Share, Newsletter, Feedback