At UCLA Hillel’s Gindi Gallery, Beverly Bialik’s playful sculpture of an oversized baked potato practically bursts with cartoony scallions and a pale yellow stack of tulle representing butter.
Wendy Sue Lamm’s color photographs depict moody close-up images of victuals that resemble portraits: A grid of nine photos of round-shaped foods (think: pita bread, a mushroom cap) is captured with dramatic chiaroscuro lighting against a dark background. These photographic prints on glass are taken from a cookbook she is now working on with Umami Burger and 800 Degrees restaurateur Adam Fleischman.
“I was trying to draw out the beauty of the food and what makes me hungry,” said Lamm, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and the author of “From the Land of Miracles,” a 2005 book depicting Israeli and Palestinian life and strife.
The more than 20 artworks are part of the exhibition “Bread & Salt: The Art of Jewish Food,” which will be on display at the Gindi through Dec. 17. Pieces run the gamut from sculpture to painting to photography.
The show’s curator, Perla Karney, artistic director of the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel, noted that recent conversations around Jewish culinary traditions have broadened past a focus on Americanized Ashkenazi foods. And yet, “I didn’t address regional cooking,” she said.
“I was trying to draw out the beauty of the food and what makes me hungry.” — Wendy Sue Lamm
Viewers won’t find representations of diasporic complexity or obscure, specific ingredients from around the globe. Instead, there are “images of food, some of which are Jewish — like a blintz with apple sauce,” Karney said. “Others are universal foods that Jews eat.”
The work includes Sarah Horwitz’s kinetic image of a pomegranate, spilling seeds meant to symbolize the 613 mitzvot. Horwitz, a former professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, based her print on images from one of her own oil paintings.
Textile artist Sandra Lauterbach makes use of the extensive collection of samples she culled over decades from her family’s fabric business. Her navy-colored challah cover is emblazoned with a delicate Star of David resembling a blooming flower. And her white afikomen cover incorporates material with which her grandmother sewed the artist a dress for Lauterbach’s graduation from Paul Revere Middle School in West Los Angeles.
Four of the five artists featured in “Bread & Salt” are women; given the connection between home and food, the exhibition falls into the context of what constitutes “women’s art” — including domestic themes that have been explored by feminist artists such as Judy Chicago and the late Miriam Schapiro.
“Bread & Salt” is part of a citywide cultural initiative exploring connections between Jews and food, managed by curators Georgia Freedman-Harvey and Anne Hromadka Greenwald. Karney’s project is among the first events related to the programming, which will extend through September 2018 at institutions including the Jewish Women’s Theatre gallery at The Braid in Santa Monica, USC Hillel and American Jewish University.
Lamm said the exhibition is happening at the right time.
“L.A. is in the midst of a food appreciation explosion, and there’s a real food scene,” she said. “Food is part of Jewish culture, and part of humor — it’s part of the whole Jewish way of looking at the world.”
“Bread & Salt” is now on display at the Gindi Gallery on the second floor of Hillel at UCLA, 574 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. For more information, call (310) 208-3081 or visit breadsaltexhibit.com.