Before Mark Podwal’s new textiles are installed in one of the most iconic, oldest and continually active synagogues in Europe, it will be exhibited at Yeshiva University Museum (YU Museum) in the exhibition Old and the New: Mark Podwal’s Textiles for the Altneuschul in Prague from November 27, 2011–January 15, 2012.
The textiles, which include a Torah ark cover, three Torah mantles and covers for the Torah reading and cantor’s desks represent the first major commission for the sanctuary of Prague’s Altneuschul in over 70 years. Built in 1270, the Altneuschul, or “Old-New Synagogue,” is celebrated for its architectural beauty and legendary provenance–myth has it its stones were brought by angels. It is one of the few Gothic synagogues in existence and sits at the center of Prague’s Jewish Quarter, a vibrant community famed for its scholars, mystics, writers and intellectuals. Perhaps the most famous of the synagogue’s legends is the Prague Golem, believed to lie dormant in the attic of the building tobe restored again, if needed, to defend the Jews.
Podwal, an New York-based artist, author and physician, has long been engaged with Prague and its famed Jewish Quarter. The textiles are the latest and most ambitious of his works relating to Prague’s Jewish Community. “With its history, mystical legends and remarkable beauty, the Altneuschul is one of the world’s great Jewish monuments–and a living one,” said Podwal, who is known for his drawings on The New York Times Op-Ed page and is represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Jewish Museum in Prague and many others. “To be able to contribute to the ongoing religious and communal function of the synagogue is a humbling honor. It was daunting but exciting to make works that reflect and speak to the character of Prague’s broad and rich Jewish fabric.”