Opening Reception for Swords into Ploughshares: Sculpture by Jay Moss
Riverdale Goldfine Pavilion Lobby Gallery
Jul. 15, 2018, 01:30 pm
Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, Swords into Ploughshares: Sculpture by Jay Moss on view in the Pauline and William Goldfine Pavilion Lobby Gallery from July 15–October 7, 2018. A reception will take place on Sunday, July 15, from 1:30–3 p.m. in the Goldfine Pavilion Lobby Gallery, located at 5901 Palisade Avenue in the Riverdale section of The Bronx. This event is free and open to the public. R.S.V.P. 718.581.1596 or [email protected]. Photo I.D. required for admission.
The exhibition includes 13 sculptures made between 1980 and 2012. Many of them reflect Moss’s experience on the front lines during WWII when he served as a combat engineer. Moss has worked for more than seven decades crafting sculptures that resonate with his experience of the horrors of war and his hope for a lasting peace. In these relief and tabletop works assembled with wood, metal, sheet lead, plastic and other materials, Moss addresses a range of social issues. Sometimes whimsical or ironic, they comment on such subjects as the corrupting influence of power and the treatment of prisoners from German prison camps to Guantanamo Bay.
In an assemblage that resembles an artillery shell, Anzio (2003), made from materials leftover from when he was a professional lamp designer, Moss has collaged mementos from his war experience: a letter from his mother, a patch spelling out A-N-Z-I-O, a photograph of the German howitzer that ran on a railroad track, currency from the occupation used in Italy and a photo of his brother. The work is titled after the beachhead where, despite being a combat engineer, as a newly arrived soldier he had to replace combat troops in a flooded foxhole in the winter of 1944.
Another work, GI Joe (2012), depicts a tall and lanky figure in relief, made up of fragments and with a skull-like face, at the ready with his helmet and rifle. Moss’s unit arrived in Europe on August 15, 1944, for Operation Dragoon—the Allied invasion of Southern France. Months later, not far from the front, in the forests of the Vosges Mountains, Moss built what were called corduroy roads—“trees that they knock down to make a roadway so it’s very bumpy to the front,” he has explained. That’s when he saw dead soldiers on the back of an open track—a traumatic memory that lingers to this day and which Moss has said is the “essence of the front for me.”
During those final months of the war, thousands of enemy soldiers were captured. That time is reflected in The Prisoner (1991), a carved wood piece with a hand-drawn and painted bandana covering the eyes. The base of the head is carved wood covered with sheet metal, a material the artist frequently employs and which is soft and malleable, ready to be hammered or molded.
About the artist
Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1923, to immigrant parents—Isadore Moskowitz, a clothing maker and store owner born in Russia, and Josephine Goldsmith Moskowitz, who was born in Romania—Jay Moss attended the High School of Industrial Art (later the High School of Art and Design), where he studied graphic arts, three-dimensional design, display and studio drawing. The family first lived over the tailor shop and later moved to Flatbush and Greenpoint before settling in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Moss was drafted into the army in 1943 after working as a page at CBS, and trained as a combat engineer in Fort Belvoir, VA. His unit, the 36th Engineer Regiment, traveled through North Africa before arriving in early 1944 at Anzio, a key campaign of the Allied forces on the Italian coast. After Italy, he was stationed in Marseille and on the French front in the Vosges Mountains on the eastern border with Germany.
Moss attended the Art Students League as a benefit of the GI Bill, studying under José de Creeft, Morris Kantor and M. Peter Piening. A mahogany head he carved while a student at the League was exhibited at Jacques Seligmann & Company in 1947. Moss also received a sculpture prize at the Nassau County Art Association in the 1960s. He was head of NBC television’s art department where he worked for 12 years and then was the owner-designer of a company that made decorative mirrors and wall pieces. After selling the company, he worked as a design consultant and lighting product designer. He also taught lighting product design at the Parsons School of Design and television graphic arts at the RCA Institute. All the while, he worked at his passion, sculpting in the basement studio of his family’s Long Island home and at their second home in Stockbridge, MA. Moss has worked both figuratively and abstractly, creating forms using a table saw and chiseling a variety of woods that he then assembles with other materials, including lead, metal and cloth.