Sunday, January 23, 2022

From Rembrandt Inspired Cyberart in MoMA to Cryptoart NFT

Just as cyber artworks have found their homes in museums worldwide since the 1980’s, crypto artworks will be entering museum collections worldwide in the future.

As an artist whose digital artwork is in the MoMA collection, it will be meaningful for the museum to also have my Rembrandt inspired NFT in its collection. The image below shows me in period garb launching a Rembrandt inspired cyberangel from Rembrandt’s studio in Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam flying to MoMA. 


The Museum of Modern Art added my experimental digital multimedia artwork Jacob’s Dream: Digitized Homage to Rembrandt to its collection in 1987 after its being exhibited in “The Artist and the Computer” exhibition at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. I had created it when I was simultaneously Chairman of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute and Research Fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies.

Mrs. Alfred R. Stern, Chairman of the Committee on Prints and Illustrated Books, wrote on adding my 1986 experimental digital multimedia artwork Jacob’s Dream: “The members of the committee were pleased to accept this computer-assisted etching of Rembrandt’s imagery. As an example of the innovative technological experimentation taking place at Pratt Graphic Center, it will be of great interest to students of the development of graphic techniques.”

In addition to my teaching at Pratt and MIT, I am former art professor at Columbia University and professor at universities in Israel.

 My email is melalexenberg@yahoo.com 

MoMA IN THE LIFE OF THE ARTIST MEL ALEXENBERG

MoMA has a special place in my life having been born and educated in New York. Instead of taking the Green Bus to school, I’d often run across Queens Boulevard and take the bus in the opposite direction across the bridge to Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street to spend the day with Matisses and Picassos. 

When I was head of the art department at Pratt Institute, I invited Francoise Gilot to lecture about her new book Matisse and Picasso: A Friendship in Art. She gave me a copy and wrote in it: "To Mel Alexenberg, who sees angels in computers and computers in Angels. Francoise Gilot."

My first teaching job was as a high school biology teacher at Rhodes School on 54th Street overlooking the MoMA terrace. (It’s the red brick building in the photo below.) 


My second date with Miriam, who became my wife ten months later, was in the MoMA where I explained to her ideas emerging from modern art. The last museum she had visited was the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam viewing Rembrandts when she was nine years old on her way from Suriname, the Dutch colony in South America where she was born, to live on a farm in Israel.

Victor D’Amico, director of the MoMA’s Children's Museum was my teacher when I was studying for an interdisciplinary doctorate in art and science at NYU. His classes were held at MoMA. Dr. Prabha Sahasrabudha who worked with Victor at MoMA was invited by Indira Gandhi to create a children's museum in India modeled after the MoMA Children's Museum. Prabha was later professor of art education at NYU and head of the committee that granted me my doctorate for my research on the aesthetic experience in creative process in art and science. 
My cyberangel flights in both digital and crypto forms are based on the biblical passage: “He had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, its top reaching up towards heaven as Divine angels were going up and down on it.” (Genesis 28:12) Angels in Jacob’s dream go up from the Land of Israel and go down throughout the world.


Top image: Rembrandt inspired cyberangels arrive from Israel at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in time for lunch at the Terrace Cafe.  The biblical words for angel and food are spelled with the same four Hebrew letters to teach that angels are spiritual messages arising from everyday life. Perhaps there is spiritual significance that museums that offer art also offer food.
Second image: The cyberangels begin their virtual flight from the Israel Museum's Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, home of ancient Bible scrolls. They gain momentum by going up from the tallest building in Israel, the 91 story Azrieli Spiral Tower in construction in Tel Aviv with the shape of a Bible scroll.

Third image: Cyberangels spiral up from a NASA satellite image of the Land of Israel on a smartphone screen on the cover of Mel Alexenberg’s latest book Through a Bible Lens.  They launch the book throughout the world from the artist/author’s studio in Israel. See praise for the book at Israel365.
Bottom image: This experimental mixed media artwork by Mel Alexenberg was exhibited in the “The Second Emerging Expression Biennial: The Artist and the Computer” exhibition at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York in 1987-88. 

It creates a visual dialog between a hand-drawn etching, photoetching, and computer-generated etchings based on a Rembrandt drawing in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that placed Alexenberg’s print in its collection. It was also acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 1987.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Biblical Origins of Crypto Cyberangels

 Rembrandt’s inspiration for my postdigital age artwork began three decades ago when I was sitting in a small synagogue in New York listening to the chanting of the biblical portion about artists Bezalel and Oholiav building the Tabernacle. I was translating the Hebrew words into English in my mind when it struck me that the Bible’s term for “art” is malekhet makhshevet, literally “thoughtful craft.” It is a feminine term. Since I’m a male artist, I transformed it into its masculine form malakh makhshev, literally “computer angel.”


Mel Alexenberg, Brooklyn Angel,  Acrylic painting on panel, 90 x 161 cm.

When the services ended, I immediately told my wife Miriam that I discovered that my role as a male Jewish artist is to create computer angels. “To do what?” was her response. I reminded her of an article that our son Rabbi Ron Alexenberg had sent us a week earlier when he was archivist at Rabbi Kook’s House in Jerusalem. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was a down-to-earth mystic who served as the chief rabbi of pre-state Israel during the first half of the 20th century. When he lived in London, he enjoyed seeing the Rembrandt paintings in the National Gallery and described the light in them as the light of the first day of Creation.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Belshazzar's Feast, 1638, National Gallery, London

“Thoughtful Craft” is a More Fitting Postdigital Age Term than “Art” 

The biblical term for art as “thoughtful craft” is more appropriate for our digital era that the English term “art” related to “artifact” and “artificial,” the Hellenistic view that art’s role in mimesis, imitating nature. The contemporary Hebrew word for “computer” is makhshev, “thinker.” “Thinking machine” is a more relevant term today than “computing machine.” 

I explore this divergence in my books: Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media (HarperCollins) and The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press).





I felt well equipped to create computer angels that I like to call cyberangels. I was head of the art department at Pratt Institute, America’s leading art college, where I taught “Fine Art with Computers,” and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies where I taught a course I called “Mindleaping: Developing Creativity for the Electronic Age.” I was a frequent flier on the New York-Boston route.

From Faxart to the Digital Culture of Smartphones, Social Media, and Crypto Art
Flash forward thirty years from the faxart generation in 1989 to the ubiquitous digital culture of smartphones and social media in 2022. Unlike the era of fax technology when I sent my Rembrandt inspired cyberangel from one city to the next on its circumglobal flight, today I can send cyberangels into the digital cloud. They then simultaneously can come down into thirty museums on five continents that have my artworks in their collections. The cloud describes a vast number of computers interconnected through a real-time communication network such as the Internet. The cloud is a living network of networks blanketing our planet that closely expresses the biblical commentary that the angels in Jacob’s dream ascend into the cloud and can come down anywhere in the world. 

Timeless Immortal Art China

From Emma Qin Wang, President of G&Y (Florence) Cultural Exchange Association, Firenze, Italy, General Manager of XiangKeYi (Shanghai) Culture Communication Co., Ltd., Shanghai, China

To Mel AlexenbergProposal for the “Timeless Immortal Art China" (TIA China) project and authorization for the installation of artistic works in China.

We are pleased to inform you that our Administration, sensitive to all initiatives concerning Art and Culture, is pleased to invite you to collaborate and share our project called: " Timeless Immortal Art - China " (TIA China), including installations of artistic works for the urban decoration of our country.

Professional artists, from different countries of the world, are joining our project, giving only their authorizations, in a non-exclusive way, for our use of the printing of the images of his artworks, on materials that may vary according to the context (such as ceramic tiles, glass, or other materials) to be installed in private or public places in China.

This is an extension of our previous well-received project Timeless Immortal Art - Meri (TIA Meri). We are very pleased to share with you, as one of the artists of the TIA Meri, that we would like to carry on this concept, and spread this project to more nations in the world.

The six artworks below were sent digitally to Emma Qin Wang for use in Shanghai and other cities in China.

Cyberangels Link Sister Cities Ashdod (Israel) and Wuhan (China)

Description of artwork: Computer-generated artwork sending blessings from the people of Israel to the people on China (full description at blogpost Cyberangels Link Sister Cities Wuhan (China) and Ashdod (Israel) from artist’s article in The Times of Israel).

Cyberangels of Peace Ascend from the Land of Israel

Description of artwork: Computer-generated serigraph in the collection of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is based upon the Bible in which angels ascending from Israel come down throughout the world with messages of peace.


Angle Angels

Description of artwork: Acrylic painting in the Library at Ariel University based upon the play on the similar words angle and angel.

Cyberangels of Peace Ascend from Jerusalem through Tel Aviv to the Rest of the World

Description of artwork: Cyberangels ascend from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem through the tallest building in Tel Aviv to museums throughout the world.

Rembrandt-inspired Cyberangels on Circumglobal Flight Stop in Amsterdam

Description of artwork: Rembrandt-inspired cyberangels stop in Rembrandthuis Museum in Amsterdam on flight via satellites around the world from New York, Amsterdam, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and back to NY. The artist Mel Alexenberg in period dress is in Rembrandt’s studio receiving the cyberangel.


Cyberangel Announcing Birth of Samson to Manoah

Description of artwork:  Computer-generated lithograph in the collection of Kunstmuseum Den Haag in The Hague, Netherlands, illustrating the biblical story of an angel announcing birth of Samson to his father.

From Rembrandt Inspired Cyberart in MoMA to Cryptoart NFT

Just as cyber artworks have found their homes in museums worldwide since the 1980’s, crypto artworks will be entering museum collections wor...