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We Fight to Build a Free World: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz

The Jewish Museum

We Fight to Build a Free World was curated by the artist Jonathan Horowitz. The exhibition looked at how artists have historically responded to the rise of authoritarianism and xenophobia, as well as racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry. The presentation also addressed issues surrounding immigration, assimilation, and cultural identity.

We worked with Horowitz and the museum on overall space design, exhibit collateral, and supplementary materials intended to activate the exhibit for patrons.

The Jewish Museum, October 1, 2020 – February 14, 2021
Installation photography by Thomas Müller

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Horowitz’s mode of operation is recontextualizing familiar images. By doing so, he offers an alternative view of them. This made-you-look-twice approach invites viewers to rethink and expand their opinions and feelings about the image's object.

This approach calls for a very intentional display of the work. What goes next to what? In what way is the artist’s intervention an artistic process itself?

We collaborated with Horowitz on the hang (what goes where) and the display (visual aspects such as a design of a bench or pedestal) while also managing various technical production aspects of the show.

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The exhibition graphics are installed as wheat-pasted posters, a nod toward one of the show’s key works: Ben Shahn, We Fight for a Free World!, c. 1942. This piece depicts a series of wheat-pasted posters that Shahn designed for The Office of War Information. It has been central to Horowitz’s thinking and inspired the name of the exhibition. In a tribute to Shahn, Horowitz approached 36 contemporary artists who contributed their own protest posters to the exhibition.

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The areas leading into the galleries were painted in “Post No Bills” construction-site-green.

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The wallpaper in this gallery is a work by Horowitz titled “Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century” plus ninety—two more (2020). Horowitz expanded on Warhol’s series of screen-printed paintings, Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, to include other Warhol portraits of Jewish subjects. It is a backdrop to other works dealing with identity, passing, and assimilation.

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Installation view of 36 contemporary protest posters which were commissioned specifically for this exhibition.

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Installation view of contemporary protest posters which were commissioned specifically for this exhibition.

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Installation view of Ben Shahn, We Fight for a Free World!, c. 1942.

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Installation view of Jonathan Horowitz, Untitled (August 23, 2017–February 18, 2018, Charlottesville, VA), 2020.

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Installation view of Think About What You Saw, graphic design from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. reproduced by Horowitz as a last parting message.