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Skirball Cultural Center

Discover the power of Jewish storytelling in this exhibition featuring twelve prints by renowned American artist Frank Stella, inspired by a series of lithographs by Russian Jewish modern artist El Lissitzky.

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$18 General 
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FREE to all on Thursdays

General Admission tickets provide visitors access to all exhibitions on view at the Skirball, including Frank Stella: Had Gadya. Visitors who would like to board Noah’s Ark, which requires timed entry, should purchase a separate Noah's Ark ticket (which also includes general admission access).

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About the Exhibition

This exhibition explores the power of traditional Jewish storytelling as a constant source of inspiration for creative expression. It centers on the beloved traditional song, "Had Gadya," sung around the world for centuries at the Jewish holiday of Passover. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a striking series of twelve large prints by renowned American artist Frank Stella (b. 1936). These dramatic pieces are presented in dialogue with a colorful series of lithographs by Russian Jewish modern artist El Lissitzky (1890-1941) that illustrate the verses of "Had Gadya," created over half a century earlier.

"Had Gadya" ("One Little Goat") is an Aramaic/Hebrew song traditionally sung to conclude the Passover Seder, the ritual meal of the Passover holiday. The song tells the tale of cyclical violence and its end through divine redemption: a baby goat is eaten by a cat, who is bitten by a dog, who is beaten by a stick and so on. Each subsequent verse builds on the story, with aggressors becoming victims themselves; finally, the cycle is broken with God’s intervention. The song has been interpreted in many ways over the centuries; a common interpretation casts it as a metaphor for the chain of persecution that has targeted Jewish people since antiquity. 

The striking visuals of Had Gadya, together with audio interpretation and text that shines a light on the various interpretations of the song’s lyrics, provide an opportunity for learning about and reimagining Passover traditions. Featuring prints by a well-known American artist inspired by works by a Russian Jewish artist about a Jewish song, the cross-cultural and intergenerational aspect of this exhibition reveals the profound impact of Jewish artists and culture on the broader American cultural landscape. 

This exhibition takes a welcoming, intergenerational approach to the art on view and to the song that inspired it, offering multiple points of entry and seeks to welcome all, regardless of familiarity with Passover traditions. Throughout the gallery, visitors have the opportunity to listen to different versions of the song—from different times, regions, and traditions—and are encouraged to ask their own questions about what it means today.

Curatorial Acknowledgments

Frank Stella: Had Gadya is organized by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion and co-presented with the Skirball Cultural Center. For its presentation at the Skirball, Ivy Weingram is the exhibition’s managing guest curator, in coordination with Jean Bloch Rosensaft, Director, Heller Museum, HUC-JIR/New York.  

Spotlight Tours

An illustration framed on wall with abstract shapes and bright greens, blues, and pinks

Courtesy of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, April 18–September 1, 2:30 pm

Docent-led spotlight tours are offered every Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Engage with a Skirball docent about the works on view or the significance of this Passover song.

Thursday, May 9, 1:00 pm
In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, join Skirball Museum Director Sheri Bernstein for a special tour of Frank Stella: Had Gadya. Learn how the Skirball came to present this exhibition and explore the creative dialogue between two artists of different generations and backgrounds who were inspired by a beloved Jewish Passover song.

About the Artists

Frank Stella (b. 1936, Malden, Massachusetts) gained attention early in his career for his use of innovative techniques and materials and quickly came to be regarded as one of the preeminent Minimalist artists of the 1960s. In the decades since, he has continued to work in painting, sculpture, and printmaking, and has created several largescale commissioned works for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. His work has been widely displayed internationally, including at Documenta 4 in Kassel, Germany in 1968; survey exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City in 1970 and 1987 and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel, Switzerland in 2015; and retrospective exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Wolfsburg, Germany in 2012 and at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 2015. 

Although Stella was a Catholic, he was inspired by the history of the Jewish people, particularly that of the Holocaust, during which time he was a child in the US. During a trip to the Tel Aviv Museum in 1981, Stella became fascinated by a series of prints by El Lissitzky illustrating the classic Passover song and was inspired to create a series of prints that captured the action and emotion that he perceived in Lissitzky’s visual interpretation. Between 1982 and 1984, Stella completed the twelve prints—one for each stanza of the song, plus a frontispiece and an endpiece —that comprise his series. 

Stella received his BA in History and Art History from Princeton University. He currently lives and works in New York City.

El Lissitzky (b. 1890, Pochinok, Russia – d. 1941, Moscow, Russia) was an avant-garde Russian Jewish artist who made major contributions to the art movements of Suprematism and Constructivism. Lissitzky studied art from a young age under Yehuda Pen, who also taught Marc Chagall, and studied architecture at the Technische Universität in Darmstadt, Germany. Lissitzky was involved with the Yiddish Kultur-Lige, a project to bolster and reinvigorate Jewish culture in Ukraine after its independence from the Russian Empire in 1918; his Had Gadya portfolio project was part of this work. Lissitzky is best known for his dynamic designs for posters supporting Bolshevik causes during the Russian Revolution (1917-1923), and for his contributions to the development of a new Soviet art and design in the decades after the Revolution. Today regarded as a major figure in the development of abstraction, Lissitzky’s works are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, among others. 

Donor Support

Frank Stella: Had Gadya and its related educational programs at the Skirball Cultural Center are made possible through lead support from the following donor: 

Marlene Louchheim

Along with support from the following donor:

Carol and Jerome Coben 

Media support provided by:

Jewish Journal