Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, Erosion: Works by Leonard Ursachi on view from July 15–November 18, 2018. In this exhibition featuring an outdoor sculpture, installation work, and related maquettes and drawings, Leonard Ursachi addresses themes of environmental and social crises caused by manmade events and reflects on how the destruction of natural resources is intimately interconnected with the effacement of human history and culture. What a Wonderful World (2018), a large-scale sculpture installed in Hebrew Home’s sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades, touches on the inextricable link between profitability and the destruction of the environment. Expanses of 23-karat gold leaf applied to the roughly textured, “tarred” oceans reference a global, often wealth-driven disregard for the impact of environmental choices. The continents, on the other hand, appear vast and devoid of life, signifying a stripping away of natural resources. Still, Ursachi’s vision implies hope: the sculpture’s egg shape may be read as the enduring, if fragile, potential for life.
Also included in the exhibition is Rise and Shine (2010), a multi-media work that addresses the disappearance of the Romanian island of Ada Kaleh, which was submerged in the Danube River in 1970 by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in order to build a hydroelectric plant. Inside an aquarium-like receptacle, a model of the island cast from translucent urethane resin is lit from below, alternately drowned and resuscitated as water continuously rises and falls. The work addresses the disastrous effect such industrial projects have on human culture, displacing entire populations and literally washing away layers of history. The piece engages environmental themes and reflects the unchecked destruction that can occur under tyranny. Ceaușescu’s rule was one of the most brutal in the Eastern Bloc, with his secret police force routinely torturing and imprisoning suspected dissenters and political enemies. Ursachi was arrested for attempting to escape Romania by swimming across the Danube—near the spot where Ada Kaleh once stood—to reach Yugoslavia in 1978. His second attempt to defect, in 1980, was successful, and he was granted political asylum in France where he spent five years. He came to the United States via Canada and settled in New York in 1987.