Charlemagne Palestine’s Bear Mitzvah in Meshugahland

Exhibition Website

Mar 17 2017 - Aug 6 2017

Jewish Museum

New York City, NY

Enter the colorful, fantastical world of visual artist, musician, composer, and performer Charlemagne Palestine with an immersive, site-specific installation of hundreds of teddy bears and other plush toys influenced by the artist’s Brooklyn Jewish roots.

Charlemagne Palestine (b. 1947, Brooklyn, New York), best known for his avant-garde and experimental music compositions beginning in the 1960s, has been incorporating bears and other plush toys into his installations and performances for decades. The plush toys—either hand-made by the artist or found—will be installed in the Museum’s Kaplan gallery’s floor and walls, suspended from the ceiling, and perched on pedestals. The exhibition—replete with mirrors, colorful textiles, and lights—will feature hundreds of teddy bears, which the artist regards as shamanic representations of the soul, and the artist’s life-sized conjoined triplet bears and a work titled “Noah’s Ark,” a repurposed rowboat filled to the brim with stuffed toys. Visitors to Charlemagne Palestine’s “meshugahland,” or “crazy land,” will also hear the artist’s experimental sound recordings.

The teddy bear’s invention in 1902 by an immigrant couple in the same Brooklyn neighborhood where Palestine was born has become a near obsession for the artist. The first bear was hand sewn by Morris and Rose Michtom as a tribute to President Theodore Roosevelt following his much publicized hunting trip during which he refused to shoot a bear cub that had been readied for his aim. The incident was popularized by the prominent illustrator Clifford Berryman’s cartoons in the Washington Post. The Michtoms, along with the rest of America, became fascinated by the story and thus dubbed the newly invented toy “Teddy’s bear.” The bear’s invention quickly became a commercial and media success.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

  • Installation
  • American
  • Contemporary
  • Charlemagne Palestine

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