Rubies & Rebels: Jewish Female Identity in Contemporary British Art (Barbican Gallery, 1996) was an exhibition (and accompanying catalogue) of twenty Jewish female artists, curated by Monica Bohm-Duchen and Vera Grodzinski. The artworks included ranged widely: from work that addressed issues of identity in a direct and explicit manner to work where such references were more oblique; from work which was affirmative to work that adopted a more critical approach. Exhibiting artists included, amongst others: Judy Bermant, Lilian Lijn, Verdi Yahooda and Rachel Lichtenstein who exhibited a large scale artwork Kirsch Family.
Kirsch Family was made in Israel whilst Rachel was in residence in Arad, during her residency 1995-6, as part of an international programme of Jewish artists.
Since her grandfather died in 1987, Lichtenstein has been preoccupied with perpetuating through her art the memory and legacy of her family’s Eastern European roots. In Kirsch Family, she created a life-size floor mosaic based on a photograph of her grandmother’s family taken in Poland in 1915. The artwork was painstackingly constructed from ancient pottery shards collected from various archaeological sites in Israel. These shards dates back to the Byzantine and Roman periods.
'A wall panel, listing the names of the family members depicted and giving details of where they met their death, told a story both unique and horribly typical; yet in one sense the family is preserved intact – a particularly female preoccupation - by the materials with which the artist has memoralised it. Her sense of the complex layering of historical experience and memory is given further expression by means of the deliberate fragmentation and stratification of the image.’
(Extract from catalogue essay by curator Monica Bohm-Duchen)