Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything at the Jewish Museum

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything is an exhibition of contemporary art inspired by the great poet at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Thursday-Tuesday,  April 12 to September 8, 2019. From $8

The exhibition features works by twelve artists and eighteen musicians from ten countries.

Leonard Cohen

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
~ Leonard Cohen from ‘Anthem’ (1992) *

Novelist, poet, singer, songwriter. How do you describe the man who wants to dance you to the end of love? Pick a theme and he probably wrote some of the most beautiful words on it.

Cohen is the Jewish surname for a priest. Many poets have been sacred. Many have been profane. But Cohen was everything in between.

He was Jewish. New York City’s first Jews were Sephardic (Spanish/Portuguese) from Brazil. He was an English speaker, but from Montréal, Canada. That’s French-Canadian land. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Words this rich resonate with our common humanity.

“Show me slowly what I only know the limits of.
Dance me to the end of love.”
Leonard Cohen, 1984

This exhibition provides an opportunity to speak to the separatism that seems to be enveloping our world today. Canada has English and French speaking regions. For years, French-Canadians wanted to separate. We finally decided to stay together. Now, nobody really self-identifies as French-Canadian. We are just Canadian. We can speak French with you and with we can speak English with you. It’s all good. There is an example here for the whole world. There is just one world and one people. We are better together.

* He is probably referencing “The wound is the place where the light enters you,” a quote by the famous Persian Islamic Sufi poet Rumi (1207-1273). It’s an interesting possibility because Jewish poets, writing in Arabic in Spain, restored our Greco-Roman heritage to Christian Europe from the great Islamic libraries. (We are better together.)

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything

This is an exhibition of contemporary art inspired by Cohen. It was organized by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) and first opened there.

Inspiring others is the greatest honor for any artist. That’s really why we do what we do.

The exhibition includes commissioned works by international artists:

  • Kara Blake
  • Candice Breitz
  • Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller
  • Christophe Chassol, Cuba in Cohen (2017) video
  • Daily tous les jours
  • Tacita Dean
  • Kota Ezawa
  • George Fok
  • Ari Folman
  • Jon Rafman
  • Taryn Simon

There is a lot of very unusual multimedia art in this exhibition.

Christophe Chassol’s video Cuba in Cohen (2017) reworks a Cohen recital of his poem The Only Tourist in Havana Turns His Thoughts Homeward (1964).

“Come, my brothers,
let us govern Canada,
let us find our serious heads,
let us dump asbestos on the White House,
let us make the French talk English,
not only here but everywhere,
let us torture the Senate individually
until they confess,
let us purge the New Party,
let us encourage the dark races
so they’ll be lenient
when they take over”

This excerpt from Cohen’s The Only Tourist in Havana Turns His Thoughts Homeward (1964) could be written today.

Heard There Was a Secret Chord (2018) by Daily tous les jours explores the connection between people around the world humming to the same Hallelujah voices (Hallelujah is one of Cohen’s signature pieces). It’s an interesting idea. What would happen if we all hummed the same tune?

The Poetry Machine (2017) by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller connects keys on an organ to a bunch of old speakers. Each key recites a different poem from Cohen’s Book of Longing. Multiple keys produce multiple voices. This is an expression of Borges’ Library of Babel in multimedia.

The exhibition includes a video projection showcase of Cohen’s own drawings. There is also a multimedia gallery where you can listen to Cohen’s music in covers by Lou Doillon, Feist, Moby, The National with Sufjan Stevens, Ragnar Kjartansson, Richard Reed Parry and others.

All of this is what happens when you tune yourself to the frequency of the universe.

The exhibition is curated by John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator at the MAC, and Victor Shiffman, Co-Curator. The New York presentation is coordinated for the Jewish Museum by Kelly Taxter, Barnett and Annalee Newman Curator of Contemporary Art, and Ruth Beesch, Senior Deputy Director, Programs & Strategic Initiatives.

More information at thejewishmuseum.org

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything Tickets

Seniors (65+): $12
Members, Active duty military families, Federal disability: Free

Saturdays: Free (in observance of Shabat)

Tickets are available at the door and online at thejewishmuseum.org

The Jewish Museum

1109 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10128
(entrance on 92nd St)
Upper East Side, Manhattan


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