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New Council Stages First Show : Exhibition Celebrates Jewish Artists

Times Staff Writer

The large meetings rooms at the Jewish Community Building in Torrance are normally filled with people attending everything from teen-age counseling sessions to senior citizen parties.

But for the next 2 1/2 months, they will double as an art gallery, as the newly formed South Bay Jewish Art Council puts on “The First Show: A Celebration of Jewish Artists.” The initial exhibit is focusing on local Jewish artists.

“This is a new building with blank walls, and this gives us an opportunity to do this,” said Michael Paster, a veterinarian and artist who heads the art council. He said the idea was borrowed from Jewish community buildings in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley that use their walls for art exhibits.

Four artists are showing nearly 40 works in the free show, which begins with a public reception from 3 to 6 p.m. today. The art will be on view through Jan. 30 during hours the building is open for activities. Visitors are asked to call (213) 540-2631 in advance about viewing times.

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Paster said the aim of the 13-member art council, which was organized in March by the Southern Region Jewish Federation Council of the South Bay, is to provide Jewish artists with opportunities to display their work.

“We want to create something that has never been before, and it’s a real challenge,” Paster said. “We probably will have 200 to 300 people at the opening. During the week, there are always meetings of all types of groups here. It’s good exposure for the artist.”

The works will be on sale, with 25% of the price going to the arts council. Paster said the group eventually wants to have four shows a year. The next one is set for April.

While the focus is on Jewish artists, it is not necessarily on themes of the Jewish faith and culture. Paster said the Bible and Judaism may well form the basis of a show some day, but the atmosphere for “The First Show” is secular and diverse.

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For example, Ilee Kaplan of Long Beach specializes in large, striking multicolored woodcut portraits; Elaine Frank creates oil and acrylic paintings in vivid colors, drawing on people and locales in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, where she lives. Jackee Marks of Hermosa Beach, primarily a sculptor, has branched into etchings depicting the human figure. Graphics artist Len Rubenstein of Rancho Palos Verdes leans toward landscapes--"I was born on a farm,” she says--and people as subjects.

Art About People

All four say they most enjoy creating art that is about people.

“What interests me are people and relationships and interactions . . . describing faces and emotions,” Kaplan said.

The artists, who were invited to show their work by art council members, welcome the new exhibit space. “If you’re busy finding places to show, you don’t have time to stay home and work,” Marks said.

Rubenstein said he is happy for the opportunity to display several works. At juried shows where prizes are given, he said, “You’re limited to one.”

Paster said his own love of art led to his involvement with the council, which includes a variety of artists as well as clothing and interior designers. The group has grown by a couple of members a month, and its scope also has broadened.

“Our original intent was to have an art exhibit,” he said. “Now we see future showings of photos, art by children, sculpture, ceramics and music.”

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Said Paster: “We’re still crawling, but we’re learning how to walk.”

The Jewish Community Building is at 22410 Palos Verdes Blvd., Torrance.


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