Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Gropper Windows

West Suburban Temple Har Zion
is celebrating the 50th Anniversary
of its five Gropper windows this month

... and since I only live a few blocks away,
I had to go take another look at them.

William Gropper (1897-1977)
was a top-notch
left-wing political cartoonist
who specialized in
skewering the evils of capitalism.
(until they were overwhelmed
by the evils of Communism and
the fascist reaction to it)

After the war,
he got more interested
in scenes of Americana

Is there anything seditious
about this cheerful little map
of American folklore ?

I don't think so ...
but apparently Joseph McCarthy did,
and Gropper got blacklisted
with all the other left-wingers
in the world of American
art and entertainment.

And after the Holocaust
he got a little more interested
in his Jewish roots

and the Jewish sacred tradition
(although this poor fellow
does seem a bit comical)

It all came together for him\
in the daring commission that he got
in 1966
to design five, 14' windows
for a Conservative temple in River Forest

(Jacob wrestling with the Angel)

The effect of light coming through
this glass cannot be shared though any photographs.

The results are spectacular,
with much credit to the
local Lithuanaan liturgical artist,
Adolfas Valeska,
who fabricated them in thick, chipped glass.

The details shown above
give some idea
of the
lively intensity
of the work.

since I was already there,
I had to take another look
at the Milton Horn sculpture
in the sanctuary,
which apparently
is still controversial.
(some say it looks Christian)

Milton, though almost as left-wing secular as Gropper,
was saturated
with two great Cultural traditions:
the almost mystical Judaism of Eastern Europe
(where he was born),
and the liturgical sculpture
of the Middle ages
(that he collected).

It's nice to see him and Gropper side by side,
and hopefully this congregation
will eventually issue some more commissions,
and continue their tradition
of making their temple
an art destination.


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