“The Room in the Elephant” Los Angeles
A multi-disciplinary exhibition featuring the work of Benny Ferdman (Los Angeles)
Los Angeles-based artist Benny Ferdman juxtaposes and reinterprets images and narratives drawn from decades of collecting objects and stories from many cultures and from nature. Repurposed wood, rusted bent wire, an abandoned picket fence, simple plywood boards and scraps of cardboard, all become surfaces to explore a deeply personal symbol-scape infused with age-old Jewish art traditions and the Yiddish language in which the artist was raised. Through his work, Ferdman strives to reclaim wonder in daily life while salvaging the rich and often fantastical iconography of the Eastern European Jewish world from which his parents came. The Ashkenaz Festival exhibition features a multi-disciplinary collection of Ferdman’s adventurous reworkings of Jewish iconography, incorporating folk motifs and diverse narratives drawn from Eastern European Jewish culture that once expressed itself in Yiddish. The exhibition will include the inaugural presentation of a sculptural nine-foot tall cabinet of curiosities – a wondrous room inside the elephant.
The exhibition is curated by Evelyn Tauben and is presented as part of WondeRing, an immersive Jewish art experience created for the Ashkenaz Festival by Creative Way’s Benny Ferdman and Shari David together with Tauben.
Benny Ferdman is a visual artist whose work draws from diverse narratives and cultural motifs of East European Jewish culture. Born in Sweden to Polish-Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust and raised in Los Angeles, Ferdman has lived and worked in New York, California, and Israel. Focusing on the nexus between nature and culture, Ferdman’s journeys have led him through broad explorations of culture, to a more Intimate engagement with his own East European Jewish ancestry. A collector of materials found in nature, Ferdman’s artwork and ongoing research juxtaposes and reinterprets these objects to reclaim wonder in everyday life.
Ferdman is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Creative Ways, an L.A based organization cultivating dialogue across cultures, generations and communities. In New York, Ferdman partnered with City Lore, the New York City Department of Education and others, producing large-scale, community-based public art work. Ferdman was the first arts educator to receive a Fellowship for Senior Educators from Hebrew University, Jerusalem and his research was also funded by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. In 2000, Creative Ways received funding from the Slifka Foundation to create an interactive exhibition on global rites of passage. Passageways (in partnership with Omanut La’am / Arts for the People) toured Israel for three years across in a retrofitted shipping container. In 2008, his installation created in a Jerusalem field: Shout in the Ears of Jerusalem was exhibited at the Emet Gallery in Montreal and the Koffler Centre of the Arts in Toronto.He has held numerous artist residencies and received commissions for large-scale sculptures, museum exhibitions, installations, stage sets, public art in synagogues and cultural centers, and arts-based curricula throughout North America and Israel. Ferdman is the former founding Arts Director at deToledo High School in Los Angeles and the recipient of the Milken Educators Award for his trailblazing approach illuminating the Jewish tradition in the arts.