(Bloody Mess) Expressionist Chad Gadya (Menachem Birnbaum)

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My father buys one kid. Cat kills kid. Dog kills cat. Stick kills dog. Fire burns stick. Water consumes fire. Ox drinks up water. The butcher slaughters ox. Angel of death slays butcher. And God, the Holy One, kills the angel of death. That’s what we teach our children. It doesn’t get any better? Probably not. In Menachem Birnbaum’s 1919 expressionist Chad Gadya, the traditional child’s ditty is shown to be a bloody mess.  My favorite images here are the ox and the butcher. I like the dark and red muscular fleshiness and the way it fills up the page; and also the closure of the eyes as each figure goes about a function or task; and also the circular litheness of the dog energy. Anticipating Barnett Newman, the representation of God by an abstract white zip of a line is pretty good. I saw this at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at Marilyn Braiterman Rare Books.

 

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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