The 613 by Archie Rand

April 25–July 18, 2021

For over five decades Archie Rand has been regarded as a maverick and rule-breaker, and The 613 is his most ambitious work. An enormous multi-panel painting, it depicts surprising responses to the 613 commandments of the Torah, which is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament). Yes, there are more than 10 commandments—the rules that govern ethical and religious behavior in Judaism. Rand’s monumental installation, which will fill MAG’s Docent Gallery, explores traditions of both biblical interpretation and artistic expression. It exemplifies Rand’s groundbreaking achievements in the construction of contemporary Jewish iconography, affirming his position as a relentlessly innovative artist.

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

On another level, The 613 also challenges commonly held beliefs about expression and representation. By linking the Torah’s commandments with oftentimes seemingly 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 with which it grapples. The complexity of the project encourages an investigation of both systems of knowledge, that of art history and of Judaism, and demands an engaged viewing. The 613 is fundamentally a study of the mechanics of tradition and how meaning is made.

The exhibition will include the animated short film, Kol Nidre #3 (2017) with direction and animation by Tatiana McCabe, paintings by Archie Rand from The 613, and music by Jeremiah Lockwood, produced by Bill McGarvey and Executive Producer Dan Ain, for Because Jewish.

The exhibition of The 613 by Archie Rand is organized by the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) of the University of Rochester and Joan Brookbank Projects in collaboration with the artist, Archie Rand. The MAG presentation is made possible through underwriting by the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation. Mr. Rand is the recipient of the 2020 Farash Fellowship for the Advancement of Jewish Humanities and Culture.