TYLER, TX.- A panoramic view of a cultural identity spread across a broad canvas of history is the focus as the Tyler Museum of Art prepares to open its next major exhibition, The Eye of the Collector: The Jewish Vision of Sigmund R. Balka.
Celebrating more than five decades of collecting and study by celebrated attorney and civic activist Sigmund Ronell Balka of New York, the exhibition opens to the public Friday, May 23, and continues through Aug. 10 in the Museums North Gallery. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
Balka himself is scheduled to be on hand for a gallery talk to open the exhibition at 11 a.m. May 23 at the TMA, 1300 S. Mahon Ave. adjacent to the Tyler Junior College campus. The public is invited to attend at no cost, but reservations are requested by calling (903) 595-1001.
Assembled over a period of more than 50 years, the Balka Collection provides an expansive impression of Jewish life and cultural production during a golden era of creativity. The more than 80 works assembled for the TMA exhibition selected from among more than 200 pieces in the collection spotlight the contributions of Jewish artists including Marc Chagall, Josef Israëls, Abel Pann, Herman Struck and Ben Shahn, as well as works by Max Beckmann, Lyonel Feininger and Robert Motherwell.
In 2006, Balka donated his encyclopedic survey of the major European and American Jewish artists and themes in Jewish art during the 19th and 20th century to Manhattans Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion, which awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to the benefactor in April 2008.
Its almost impossible to overstate the scope of Sig Balkas contribution through his insight and generosity not only in its celebration of Jewish culture, but to the art world in general, TMA Director Kimberley Bush Tomio said. His gift to Hebrew Union College and the exhibitions that have been organized as a result, including ours, are the foundation for an indelible legacy which this Museum is honored to celebrate.
Featuring works that vary widely from nostalgic scenes of 19th-century Eastern European shtetls, to Depression-era social realist paintings, to contemporary abstract responses to the Holocaust, The Eye of the Collector reflects a philosophy about acquiring and living with art that has animated the life of Balka, who first decided to pursue his passion for collecting while working for the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Kennedy presidential administration.
Being a collector enhances my opportunity to capture my own little worlds that hopefully represent more than just things of interest to me, but that have a significance that stems from the spring of the human spirit to be the force that helps to regenerate mankind, he said. In this past century of Holocaust and destruction it is my link with man's creative spirit, which in the end must prevail or we will extinguish ourselves.
Art is not of value if it is not presented so that people have the opportunity to interact with it, Balka continued. I dont think I am anything but a custodian during my lifetime. Art speaks for itself. And the more public the opportunity to have it speak for itself, the better society is, in general.