Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Vanessa Kauffman’s review of Night Begins the Day at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. The author notes, “The many pieces in the exhibition […] do not mimic the sublimity of the universe in its raw state—a view that is impossible to achieve in a practical sense. Instead, these are revelations of the Earth and its ethers as they have been marred, imprinted, and manipulated by human hands.” This article was originally published on July 16, 2015.
Night, in most latitudes, is characterized by darkness: a dimming of the sky that is often accompanied by the dimming of the senses, and the mind. But our eyes can and do adjust to this darkness, and as our shadowed surroundings surrender a certain clarity—becoming amorphous in form and color—the world may appear, to us, anew. In Jewish tradition, as noted by Renny Pritikin and Lily Siegel, curators of the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibition Night Begins the Day: Rethinking Space, Time, and Beauty, the sun’s trajectory toward the horizon is a harbinger: Nightfall is the first spark of a new day. The show hinges on this inversion of ingrained timetables and asks us to question our relation to the Earth and its celestial bodies, the murky beauty of our natural (and at times mundane) surroundings, and also our own destruction of those surroundings. The twenty-five contemporary artists, scientists, and others included in the show put forth a remarkable “dusking,” asking viewers to embrace the rich sublimity that is to be discovered in the dark.
Disrupting the notion of any singular moment of creation, the German artist Peter Dreher’s Tag um Tag Guter Tag (Day by Day, Good Day, 1974–ongoing) is a series, to date involving 5,000 artworks, that is continually in the making. Once or twice a week, Dreher paints the same water glass, holding the same amount of water, sitting on the same table beside the same window, in an oil painting of the same dimensions. Time is measured here by an unchanging, quotidian relationship to a single object. Numbered and displayed in a grid, the paintings (and days) are hard to assess individually. And yet each does vary from its neighbor due to the subtle shifts of light Dreher captures in the reflections on the glass. As in nature, sublimity enters and exits this work through the impressive sum of its parts, and microscopically in the infinitesimal gestures that break with what is formulaic and anticipated.