Riders of the Purple Sage
Forgotten Historical Event
Zevi Blum was born in Paris, France in 1933. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture at Cornell University in 1957. In the years to follow he was a drawing instructor at Ithaca College, and finally an Associate Professor at Cornell University. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States and in Germany and Switzerland.
His breathtaking etchings take the viewer into another world. A world of fancy from some other time. His technique is painstakingly precise and every little line of detail is given equal attention. It is truly remarkable to see his prints up close and imagine the work involved in executing such a beautifully meticulous piece.
"My work remarks on the tradition of Swift & Hogarth. My admiration is in the tradition of Oscar Wilde. My filter is architecture."
Art history has not been kind to satirists. Where some, like Hogarth or Daumier, have been granted the status of "masters," the attribution has been grudging at best. The exalted status of artists like Brueghel or Goya, on the other hand, seems to have been established largely outside the satiric content of their work. Several obvious facts may account for this. Satire by its nature tends to be topical. It is difficult to ascribe it an enduring value, and satire becomes inaccessible as the historical referents are forgotten.
We still enjoy the fantastic characters which inhabit Hieronymus Bosch's paintings, but the satiric import of these works is all but lost on the modern viewer. Effective satire must also maintain a fragile emotional distance from its subject. If this distance is lost, the genre easily degenerates into pathos, on the one hand, or caricature, on the other. Besieged as we are by images of the bizarre and the unnatural and lacking any discernible standards of taste or decorum, we must wonder if satire as an artistic genre is even possible today.
Clearly Zevi Blum believes it is. Blum's compositions present us a delightful panoply of characters. Fat prelates plot, warriors posture, and lavishly dressed courtiers and coquettes preen. Their attire ranges from the armor of the medieval knight to the latest fashions at the court of the Sun King. They belong to no age and to every age. They are both fanciful anachronisms and universals in the comedie humaine.
Oxford Gallery regrets to acknowledge that (Moses) Zevi Blum died on February 25, 2011. One of the nation’s finest etchers, Zevi taught at Cornell University for 33 years, retiring as an Emeritus Professor. His etchings are both a satire on the pointlessness of man’s activities and a paean to man’s fantastic inventiveness. Zevi’s work was erudite without becoming pedantic and satiric without becoming dark or caustic. It exemplified the mixture of wit and warmth – of humor and humanity – which was the man.
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