The 613 By Archie Rand


MMBookIt took Archie Rand almost five years to produce the paintings featured in “The 613,” an illustrated interpretation of the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, from the Torah. Each panel measures 20 inches by 16 inches and takes up about 1,700 square feet of wall space when exhibited together, which has happened only once, for four hours, in a Brooklyn, N.Y., warehouse. But the panels have been photographed in full color and are available to viewers in their entirety within this hardcover volume.

More a high-end religious comic book than a coffee-table tome, each page includes a painting and commandment text. And Rand, collected by museums worldwide, has no fear of color — the book is filled with characters and settings painted in bold visible brushstrokes using intense blues, electric greens, chartreuse and magenta, edged
in thick gold and Hebrew letters indicating the commandment number. The imagery ranges from irreverent and obtuse to outrageous and literal with black contour lines and displays of big actions and emotions, which adds to the comic-book feel and makes it inviting to page through.

One art critic described Rand as “bravely creating radical Jewish art” for decades, and in 1974, he was commissioned to paint murals for the entire 9,000-square-foot interior of Congregation B’nai Yosef in Brooklyn. Stopped mid-project and his images put on trial for heresy, a rabbi acquitted the paintings, and the project was completed. This book could raise an eyebrow or two, but it seems that’s all part of Rand’s fearless devotion to his art.

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