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Helène Aylon: My Bridal Chamber

In her installation “My Bridal Chamber,” New York-based artist Helène Aylon filters ancient Jewish tradition through an unblinking contemporary lens, with bracing—even combustible—results. The exhibition—mounted in a small, one-room gallery at the D.C. Jewish Community Center—includes four multimedia works in which the artist expresses frustration with the anti-feminist aspects of Orthodox Jewish ritual. The covering of My Marriage Bed (pictured), for instance, is made of handkerchiefs, representative of the object used to determine when seven days have elapsed after the completion of the menstrual cycle. This seven-day period is important because it determines when an Orthodox woman must take a ritual bath, or mikvah. The cyclical nature of the mikvah is emphasized in My Clean Days, a wall-sized collection of calendars that document Aylon’s day-by-day “cleanliness” throughout the 10 years of her marriage, accompanied by a monotonous, tape-recorded reading of the calendar cycles. Two other works—My Marriage Contract and My Virgin Bedspread—explore how the role played by women is overlooked in the traditional documents that undergird the Jewish life cycle. Aylon’s visual style is an eclectic mix of ’70s influences: minimalists such as Sol LeWitt, text-based conceptual artists such as Hans Haacke and Lawrence Weiner, installation artists such as Eva Hesse, and feminist provocateurs such as Judy Chicago. And though Aylon’s work is visually straightforward, her ideas are thought-provoking; viewers may find themselves lingering and mulling longer than they expected. On view from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, to Sunday, Sept. 2, at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center’s Bronfman Gallery, 1529 16th St. NW. Free. (202) 518-9400. (Louis Jacobson)