If art can alter your consciousness, as American artist Jacob Landau believed, then, he said, it must be immersed in substance and be a reflection of history.
That, according to Dr. David Herrstrom (pictured speaking above), president of the Jacob Landau Institute, is exactly what exists in the works within Landau’s Holocaust Suite and Dante's Cycle collections, on exhibit at the Human Rights Institute Gallery at Kean University from now until December 20. The exhibition includes, among others, seven lithographic prints filled with overlapping colors and images that create a depth of meaning and interpretation of the Holocaust and some humans' need to harm their own kind.
A resident of Roosevelt, N.J., Herrstrom was the featured speaker at the exhibition’s opening reception at the HRI Gallery. He is an adjunct professor at Monmouth University and was a founding board member of the Roosevelt Arts Project, serving for more than 15 years as its president. He has authored articles on Landau art as well as on William Blake. His most recent work is a literary criticism entitled The Book of the Unknowing. His books of poems include Jonah’s Disappearance, a sequence with drawings by Landau, and hypertext poems available online at The New River: a Journal of Digital Writing & Art.
“Herrstrom’s talk went into so much depth that it further inspired my creativity,” said Cristina Fittipaldi, an art history major at Kean. “It is so striking to see the detail and abstract elements of my favorite Landau image, ‘The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse,’ on exhibit at my school.”
According to Herrstrom, Jacob Landau considered every work to be unique. “He sought to probe the human predicament in individual ways, exploring the question of personal growth and the potential tragedy of human choice,” he said. “Above all, Landau believed art, like the world’s inhabitants, must bring about hope for human transcendence." For that to occur, Herrstrom added, viewers – people – must view art as witnesses to humanity, all the while using our “tremendous power for imagination, faith and intellect.”
"My work has been obsessed by the fugure... not only an object, but also and principally as a symbol expressive of our common predicament, of the beauty and horror of existence.... I am interested in art as advocacy of the human, as revelation of the tragic, as hope of transcendence." ~Jacob Landau
Perhaps it is because Landau's work is steeped in his roles as both humanist and teacher, and of a man who lived through the Great Depression and faced tough times and cruelty - influences of which can be seen throughout his works.
"Seductive and threatening, endlessly inventive, and exhilaratingly imaginative, with a sinewy honesty and a note of obession, the works of Jacob Landau immediately draw us into their orbit." ~David Herrstrom