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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.

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