Jeffrey Schrier is an American artist, producing painting, drawing, collage, and assemblage installations, some involving community participation. His chosen themes are frequently enlivened through his use of unconventional materials. A body of Schrier’s work plays with the enchantment of religious story and dogma, contrasted with history, science or pop-culture. Holocaust and WWII references in his work are rooted in family history and the fact that he was born on Pearl Harbor Day. Schrier states that his interest in visually transforming events associated with doom into hope, arises out of his struggle with crippling scoliosis and restorative spine surgery during his teen years.
WINGS of WITNESS, Schrier’s most ambitious undertaking is a series of monumental assemblage installations constructed with the assistance of sixty thousand participants to date, through artist residencies Schrier conducts at museums and educational institutions. More then eleven million can tabs, weighing over six tons, are the primary source material for the works. Bequeathed to Schrier, the tabs were initially collected from every US State and eight countries as markers for the unfathomable number of lives destroyed during the Nazi Holocaust. Working under Schrier’s direction, volunteers help fabricate “feather” structures from the tabs. At installation sites, the feather elements are configured by Schrier with teams of assistants, into massive wing-like expanses, a reference to The Butterfly, a poem written by the young Czechoslovak poet Pavel Friedman, who perished at Auschwitz. Ten site specific installations include: the Mahomet Seymour Junior High, Mahomet Illinois where the tab collection originated in 1996-97 (as a work in progress); the Yeshiva University Museum, New York; The Bremen Museum, Atlanta, GA; The Brandeis Bardin Institute, Simi Valley, CA; Holocaust Museum Houston, TX; Ida Lee Park, Leesburg VA; Holocaust Memorial and Education Center of Nassau County, Glen Cove, NY; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY; titled Unfinished Flight, at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill NY, October, 2013 through July, 2014.
Schrier was educated at the Cleveland Institute of Art and California Institute of the Arts. At CALARTS he developed as a painter under Emerson Woelffer, who challenged Schrier to create a year-long series based on a domino, resulting in Schrier’s fascination for working with mundane objects in his art. While occupying a tenth century former Roman monastery on the island of Mallorca, Spain as a summer studio, he assisted Oxford archeologist William Waldren at his bronze age excavation, an experience that cemented Schrier’s interest in the transience of culture. During a period he was journaling hundreds of his dreams as source material for imagery, Schrier discovered, in LA street trash, a Yiddish play dated 1879 that subsequently propelled him to investigate his Jewish heritage through his art. Winged imagery is prevalent in Schrier’s current treatment of biblical dreams, as well as in earlier works. Presently Schrier’s NY studio occupies a 200 year old barn overlooking the Hudson River, where his thematic work is strongly influenced by the cycle of tides and seasonal changes.
Beginning in Los Angeles and continuing in New York, Schrier was an early experimenter with copier and laser printing for his collage/montage works that were exhibited in his first NY solo, Xerotica, at the Master Eagle Gallery, the vanguard exhibition space of Manhattan’s Chelsea district. His work was featured in survey exhibitions at the International Museum of Photography, Rochester, NY; The Canadian Center of Photography and Film, Toronto; New York State Museum, Albany; The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum of the Smithsonian Institute, New York; Museo Electrographia, Cuenca, Spain; Bienale Electrographia, Madrid and Barcelona. For his Dreaming Self, Schrier fused heat transfers made from scans of his body, onto bed sheets he had slept on during his most active period of dream inquiry. Featured in the Pratt Graphic Center National Copier Art Exhibition, The Dreaming Self was published in Print Review 20, for Copy Art, the Precedents, by William Larson. Subsequently, for installation in his first solo at the Yeshiva University Museum, Manhattan, Schrier covered the thrashing figure of himself with images of Jacob’s tunic (Schrier’s Hebrew name is Yaacov), appropriated from the fresco of the Dura Euuropos Synagogue, 3rd century, Syria.
Schrier’s mixed media works have been commissioned for the music of Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Paul Winter, Les Paul, classical and jazz composers, as well in The Atlantic, Psychology Today, Quest, the Communications Satellite, etc. His illustrative works were included in notable survey exhibitions and associated publications: Printmaking in Modern American Illustration at the Pratt Manhattan Center Gallery; 200 Years of American Illustration at the New York Historical Society museum, and the 2011 exhibition at The Museum of American Illustration, NYC, of outstanding works commissioned by Rolling Stone from the 1970’s to present.
Schrier’s other work of public note includes:
· WrecKtify, solo exhibition, H-Art, Peekskill, NY, (November 2010-March, 2011). Mixed media paintings, 2006-2011, with references to Creation stories across a cultural spectrum. At odds with fundamentalist assertions that natural disasters are divine retaliation, Schrier worked outdoors on seven-foot expanses of ruined, flood stained scrolls primed with mud and river clay, with storms directly impacting his imagery.
· Serif Seriphim, solo exhibition, Yeshiva University Museum, Center for Jewish History, NY, (2005). Cut and polychrome sheet steel in which the primary calligraphic imagery is transmitted through the cut empty spaces, or shadows, rather than the steel panels themselves. Influenced by the figurative stacking of Hebrew letters in Kabbalah, the Sifirot and micrography.
· Passage to Freedom, solo exhibition, UJA Gallery, NY (2003). Twenty-four mixed media works commissioned by the Reconstructionist Press, for A Night of Questions, (a Passover Haggadah, hardcover edition 2010).
On the Wings of Eagles, illustrated and penned by Schrier, recipient of Sydney Taylor Award, hardcover, Millbrook Press, 1998, the story of the rescue of the Ethiopian Jews.
· Until the Time, Memorial to Raoul Wallenberg commissioned by the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, LA, 1997. Heat fusion montage incorporating historical WWll photos into a ten-foot high interpretation of a Shutz-Pass (passport Wallenberg issued to save lives).
· Golden Lamp, Golden Land, Installation at Ellis Island Museum, NY (1993), and Grand Central Terminal, NY (1991). Construction of painted monoprints, montage and assemblage inspired by a Yiddish book dated 1879, that Schrier found in an LA trash heap.
· Ancient Walls in the Century of Electronic Light, Yeshiva University Museum, NY, (1993). Solo exhibition of montage and assemblage in which images of synagogue structures from antiquity were re-envisioned through laser output and construction.
· Scroll, commission by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, NY, 1985. Permanent installation; heat fusion montage and assemblage inspired by important manuscripts from the Seminary Library Rare Book Room, including manuscript fragments from the Cairo Genizeh dating from the 10th century.
· Forty Hamsa Forty Years, solo exhibition, Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion Museum, New York, 1985. Mixed media works fusing dream images with generations of family photos and transfer prints of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Schrier was a faculty member at Parsons School of Design, 1981-91. Artist residencies include Syracuse University and the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has involved thousands participants in workshops at hundreds of educational institutions including Northwestern University, Quinnipiac University, University of South Florida-Gainsville, Loyola Marymount University, Hunter College, Lycee Fraqncais de NY.
Recognition and Awards
Grants and foundation funding for works that involve community participation and address social and environmental issues:
2013-14: Target Inc, Grant for Art and Culture
2012: Department of Education, US Department of Defense, and Vicenza Community Club, Vicenza Italy
2011, 2008, 2006, 2003: New York State Council on the Arts
2011, 2009, 2008, 2006: Arts Westchester, Westchester County, NY
2009: Federal grant: Innovative Alternative Strategies For Educators of Visual Arts
2008: Hudson River Healthcare, Peekskill, NY
2005: George Blumenthal, LLC, for the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY
2002, 2001: Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation, Santa Monica, CA
2002, 2001: National Foundation for Jewish Culture
2001: The Irwin Uran Gift Fund, Loudoun County, Virginia
2000: Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Simi Valley, CA
1999: Fulton County Arts Council, Atlanta, Georgia
1998: Anti-Defamation League, LA
1998: Coca Cola