Jewish Artworks in New York, an interview with Dan and Gad Nasinov


By Melvyn Kohn
November 20, 2009
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Living in NY, the largest diaspora community in the world, one is bound to find bagels. W 19th St. is no exception. Books and Bagels caters to such needs, offering its round bread and hot cups of coffee to passersby, along with a number of their own regulars, including woman named Luna Pariente, who owns the gallery next door.

I first stumbled into the Klaynberg showroom on Shabbat, not noticing that it was part of a synagogue. The paintings had drawn me in. Usually I am not drawn in to galleries without first an invitation and then the promise of vin et fromage; but this one had genuine art. And even if I had no drops of Semitic blood to tie me to the obviously Hebrew images, the artist in me recognised a kindred spirit here in the works of Gad Nusinov, a sabra who has lived this side of the pond for 23 years.

However, my initial timing was a bit awkward; I was approached by a shul member who left the minyan to welcome me, inviting me to join in the worship after he ascertained I was by birth somewhat Jewish. But as to discussing art, he insisted that Shabbat was not for business, but for holiness. It was a touching moment. There is not a lot of regard for holiness in NY and when one finds it one is touched. He had a sense of inner peace and it was hard for me to refuse him, but out of that very sentiment, regard for holiness, I had to, as I was not in the right mood or attire at that moment. So on a weekday I returned, and was directed to speak to Luna, who set up an interview for me with Gad, and with Dan, who is also an artist and has exhibited at the gallery. Both are from Tivon, a town north of Haifa. Dan is the elder by six years; they could pass for twins at first, and both share the same medium: oils. But their art is thematically and stylistically different. Here are the notes from the interview.

Question: How and when did you first get into painting?
Gad: 30 years ago...funny story. I used to play guitar in a band, and when there was a gig, we had a groupie come round and pick up my guitar and amp. One day a man appeared at the door and these up from our house. There was no gig; that was the last I saw of them. So having no guitar to strum, I picked up the paintbrush and haven't put it down since.
Dan: I've been at it since I was three. My mom likes to tell this story - I came back from ganon with a picture I had painted, and it was supposed to be a boat. When I showed it to her she asked what it was, and I replied, "it's a cockroach." She encouraged me from that day on.

Question: By which artists have you been influenced?
Gad: Van Gogh is my favourite, Renoir, Michelangelo, Cezanne, da Vinci, the list is long.
Dan: One of my favourites, even though I don't paint anything like him, is Francis Bacon. I just liked the crudeness and daring of his subject matter, dealing with material that was deemed inapproachable. He broke all the rules, killed the sacred cows, and did his own thing.

Question: Gad, what did you mean by the Return, why did you name your exhibit this way?
Gad: It means a return to my roots.
Question: Do you always paint Jewish themes?
Gad: No, I paint a number of themes. This exhibit was for the holidays, so I was inspired to paint such themes, such as Shabbat Prayer, but not all I do has a Jewish theme. That painting, for instance, "Mother and Child" is actually an Afghani refugee holding her baby.
Question: But it could pass for a modern version of Miriam and Moses...
Gad: If baby Moses was wearing modern boots.
Question: What else here is of a secular theme?
Gad: Over there you'll see the blue and white canvas, it's titled "Unmade Bed".
Question: Was that inspired by or an allusion to Tracey Emin?
Gad: Who?
(Some explanation ensues. She, by the way, is coming to NY for a show. Gad has obviously never heard of her.)
Gad: (continuing) It just inspired me as it was a challenge to get all the folds right and make it look like drapery. I paint what I like, sometimes making several drawings. I live in the country, and there are lots of tiger lilies, I took 40 photographs to give enough material to work from.

Question: Is there a favourite theme from the Scriptures that you would like to paint one day?
Gad: Jacob's ladder.
Dan: No, but in my high school I was assigned to paint a 50' x 10' fresco, and the subject was Biblical stories, which included Joshua at Jericho and King David vs. Goliath.

Question: Have you ever exhibited in or painted scenes of Israel?
Gad: I used to do prints, these sell in Israel and Europe.
Dan: Sure, I did many landscapes, but there is always a twist, you see hills and trees, but you always see something that doesn't belong.
Question: Dan, did you ever go back to your Tivon and was the mural still there?
Dan: To my amazement, I went to the school I used to attend, and forty years on, it was still there.

Question: What is your favourite medium?
Gad: Oil.
Dan: Definitely oil. I used to years ago paint in acrylic. It's fast drying and easier in a way, but the colours in oil are more lush, deeper, you can createmore shades mixing in oil. Once you do oils you don't go back. And now I use a mix of oils, I don't just use linseed or hemp, I like to use this mix that makes the brush slide on the canvas.

To see the brothers' paintings, go to www.jklaynberg.com
Klaynberg Gallery is located at 121 West 19th Street in Manhattan
Gad Nusinov's show "The Return" is on display at present

The gallery is part of the Chabad Centre, under the supervision of Rabbi Naftali Rotenstreich.
It is run by Luna Pareinte and her partner Philip Shalem.
Luna can be reached at lunibe@aol.com or by cell phone 917 834 3915 (001 prefix if dialing from the UK)

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