As it were ... So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom

March 5 - August 4, 2013

Inspired by Talmudic discourse that takes place across time and space, artist Barbara Bloom mines the collections to create tableaux that evoke dialogues between imagined historical guests.

Installation view of As it were ... So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom at the Jewish Museum, New York, 2013. Photo: David Heald.

Inspired in part by Talmudic discourse, in which discussions and commentaries take place across time and space, artist Barbara Bloom uses the paneled rooms of the former Warburg Mansion as both museum and home filled with imagined historical guests. Walking through the galleries, visitors encounter furniture-like display cases holding works from the collection. For example, a gaming table houses a Dreyfus Affair game board and ancient Roman dice. Marriage and divorce contracts cover a bed-shaped display case and an analyst’s consultation room holds Sigmund Freud’s cigar box. The juxtaposition of artworks, found texts and Bloom’s writing in the “tableaux” evokes dialogues between people. Visitors encounter Albert Einstein and Marcel Proust discussing the passage of time, or eavesdrop on Duke Ellington and Marilyn Monroe speaking about synesthesia, the mind’s mingling of sensory information.

Barbara Bloom has devoted her career to questioning the ways we perceive and value objects. With a light touch and subtle wit, she divines the meanings encoded in the things with which we surround ourselves. The artist’s visionary approach to objects makes her an ideal artist to engage with the Jewish Museum’s collection. Her presentation sets the works in unconventional contexts and offers visitors new ways to view the Museum and its holdings. The objects at the core of Bloom’s installation transcend their traditional function and spark dialogue and questions.

Artist Biography

Barbara Bloom was born in Los Angeles in 1951 and lives in New York. She studied with John Baldessari at the California Institute of the Arts and is often associated with the postmodern “Pictures Generation” that includes Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Richard Prince and Barbara Kruger. The Reign of Narcissism (1989), perhaps Bloom’s most celebrated piece, recreates a Neoclassical period room in an imaginary museum dedicated to the artist’s self-image. She is also widely known for her 1994 permanent installation of Thonet bentwood chairs at the Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst (MAK) in Vienna. An extensive survey of her work, The Collections of Barbara Bloom, was shown in 2008 at the International Center for Photography, New York and at Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin.

As it were ... So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom has been coordinated by Susan L. Braunstein, Henry J. Leir Curator at the Jewish Museum. The exhibition designer, Ken Saylor of Saylor + Sirola, worked collaboratively with the artist on the visualization and realization of this project.

This exhibition is made possible with endowment support from The Skirball Fund for American Jewish Life Exhibitions. Additional support is provided by the Alfred J. Grunebaum Memorial Fund, the Leir Charitable Foundations and the Leon Levy Foundation.,,, is a website created by Chris Mann with Sepand Ansari. This work is commissioned by the Jewish Museum and is made possible by .

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As It Were ... So To Speak by Barbara Bloom

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