[1] [2]

[3] [4]

(1) "Sisters," detail from "Sisters and Brothers," o/c, 2 panels, 72 x 120", 1993.
(2) "Sisters and Brothers," mixed media installation, 13 x 18', 1994.
(3) "The Blessing," detail from "Sisters and Brothers," o/c, 1993.
(4) "Sisters and Brothers," interior detail, 1994.

by Roberta Carasso

(Loyola Marymount University, Laband Gallery, West Side) Ruth Weisberg's art captures the timeless nature of ancient biblical stories and shows how the human drama of yesteryear continues in modern times, transcending its Jewish origins. Sisters and Brothers is an installation that updates the Genesis story of Jacob, Esau, Rachel and Leah. The patriarchal and matriarchal characters, including Isaac, the brothers' father, are portrayed as believable, real-life people, yet with an air of distance, like relatives discovered in a family album. In a series of paintings, the two sets of sibling protagonists reenact their intensely definitive dramas. The ensemble is a summation of human conflicts and desires--loneliness, togetherness, jealousy, rivalry, power, familial love, feminine and masculine drives, sexual passion, and spiritual longings.

The installation combines architecture and painting as Weisberg has constructed a large, steel-frame, tent-like structure that both supports the paintings within it and conveys the heat of a nomadic culture. The bottom section holds four paintings and is open to allow visitors to enter and view the paintings that comprise the upper portion, which form the tent's circular open dome. The tent stands alone, among related paintings on the surrounding gallery walls. It exudes an ancient stillness, reinforced by the predominantly aged ochre tones of the paintings within.

Of particular note is the intimacy with which each one is portrayed. Rachel and Leah are torn between their sisterly closeness, yet separated by the man they share. Jacob and Esau struggle for power and attempt to come to grips with their manhood and individuality. Thorny issues ranging from sibling rivalry, marriage, parenting and the values transmitted from one generation to the next may be contemplated here. Most importantly, Weisberg suggests the possibility of reconcilation of differences and coming to terms despite disparate issues.

[Weisberg presents a concurrent series of paintings, Histories, this month at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, West Hollywood--Ed.]