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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.

Golem als Actionfigur (Ausschnitt)

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 – by Anna Dorothea Ludewig
Avatars – by Louisa Hall
The Secret of the Cyborgs – by Caspar Battegay
Chapter 2
Jewish Mysticism – introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Golem Magic – by Martina Lüdicke
Golem, Language, Dada – by Emily D. Bilski
Chapter 3
Transformation – introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Jana Sterbak’s Golem: Objects as Sensations – by Rita Kersting
Crisálidas (Chrysalises) – by Jorge Gil
Rituals – by Christopher Lyon
A Golem that Ended Well – by Emily D. Bilski
On the Golem – by David Musgrave
Current page: Louise Fishman’s Paint Golem – by Emily D. Bilski
Chapter 4
Legendary Prague – introduction by Martina Lüdicke
Golem Variations – by Peter Schäfer
Rabbi Loew’s Well-Deserved Bath – by Harold Gabriel Weisz Carrington
Chapter 5
Horror and Magic – introduction by Martina Lüdicke
Golem and a Little Girl – by Helene Wecker
The Golem with a Group of Children Dancing – by Karin Harrasser
Bringing the Film Set To Life – by Anna-Carolin Augustin
Golem and Mirjam – by Cathy S. Gelbin
Chapter 6
Out of Control – introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Golem—Man Awakened with Glowing Hammer – by Arno Pařík
Dangerous Symbols – by Charlotta Kotik
Be Careful What You Wish For – by Marc Estrin
Chapter 7
Doppelgänger – introduction by Martina Lüdicke
From the Golem-Talmud – by Joshua Cohen
Kitaj’s Art Golem – by Tracy Bartley
The Golem as Techno-Imagination? – 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

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