It’s art, for God’s sake

The Brooklyn Paper
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Archie Rand, a professor of art at Brooklyn College, turned a warehouse wall in Clinton Hill into a 15-foot-tall, 93-foot-wide mural depicting 613 commandments in the Jewish Torah.
A man cured of chronic discharge immerses in a ritual bath, then brings a sacrifice.

Offer all required sacrifices in the Temple.

Do not overcharge or underpay for an article.

The Bible says that God created the universe in six days. It took slightly longer for a Sunset Park artist to tackle the epic task of painting every one of His Old Testament commandments.

Indeed, Archie Rand spent five years painting all 613 commandments on individual canvases in a “Mad magazine style,” and in doing so, he may have broken a few along the way (“Do not make human forms even for decorative purposes,” was commandment number 31, according to Maimonides’s system, and “Do not derive benefit from ornaments of idols,” number 55).

“They are very vulgar images and they are painted in garish colors,” Rand said of his canvasses. (Vulgar? Garish? Watch out — this self-described secular Jew may be racking up sins left and right.)

When the paintings are all arranged according to the medieval philosopher’s order, they take up a 22-by-100-foot wall in a Clinton Hill warehouse, quite possibly the biggest painting in the world.

It’s certainly the biggest painting that the public can’t see (perhaps upholding commandment number 32: “Do not turn a city to idolatry.”)

Rand made an exception last Sunday, opening the warehouse for a one-time showing.

More than 700 people — from artists to Orthodox Jews — took a peak at Rand’s rendering of the rules that cover everything from diet (“Do not eat a limb removed from any living beast”) to the world of business (“Do not demand collateral from a widow”).

The list goes on and on. No commandment is left out — and most are quite graphic in the 1950s, DC Comics way Rand intended.

“There’s one that says women should not emasculate men, so I painted an image of a woman with a double-edged axe,” he said.

There are few city venues with ample space to display the mural, and its current home at Classon and Lexington avenues is being torn down this month.

The painter, presidential professor of art at Brooklyn College, has exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan and hopes there is a museum would like to present this work.

Then again, museum directors might be advised to remember commandment 56: “Do not make a covenant with idolators.”

Updated 5:06 pm, July 9, 2018
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