A Sukkah Salon

Curated by Danielle Durchslag and Ryan Frank

With artwork by Megan Berk, Brent Birnbaum, Danielle Durchslag, Shannon Finnegan, Ryan Frank, Sarah Hardesty, Jessie Henson, Claudia Paneca, Shana Siegel, and Ian Trask.

88 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY
September 18 – 30, 2013

During the holiday of Sukkot Jews are commanded to build a sukkah, or hut, and eat and sleep inside the temporary structure for seven days. The sukkah is built according to a set of religious guidelines and restrictions that make it kosher for use, determining everything from the roof materials to the size of the walls. Traditionally, sukkahs function as community projects — they are built, decorated, and opened to guests by a family or congregation for communal use throughout the weeklong holiday. These temporary huts symbolize the physical structures Jews lived in during their 40 years wandering the desert, transitioning between Egypt and Israel, slavery and freedom.

Assembly Required employs contemporary art to both adhere to and expand on the traditional sukkah experience. Here artists explore the sukkah as a transitional, aspirational space, the in-between made manifest. Each artist has crafted a section of the sukkah portraying his or her connection to the longed for and unresolved, whether it be personal, political, spiritual or psychological.

Following tradition, the artists of Assembly Required, who come from a variety of religious backgrounds and spiritual identities, have approached the ritual hut as a community project, designing and building the structure together using religious guidelines as well as creative license. Unlike a traditional sukkah this one functions as both a secular and religious venue. It is a kosher, useable, dynamic space for art exhibition and prayer — a ritualized art gallery open to the community and, due to its placement outside, the natural elements.

In her book Seven Days in the Art World Sarah Thornton describes the contemporary art world as an alternative religion for atheists, a secular replacement for the communal rituals and sites of connection inherent to faith observance. This exhibition bridges those two systems, ultimately supporting the existence and interdependence of both. During the week of Sukkot Assembly Required will open its doors to guests from both communities, offering secular and religious rituals to take place inside and around the hut. The final product serves as a functional space for observant Jews, but also for the artists involved, and for anyone seeking refuge, community, dynamic art, or reflection in the open air above a busy city.

Bloomberg News
The Jewish Daily Forward