Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition on view at The Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick (GB/United States; 1978-1980). The daughters of former caretaker Grady (Lisa and Louise Burns). © Warner Bros.
The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick (GB/United States; 1978-1980). 
The daughters of former caretaker Grady (Lisa and Louise Burns). © Warner Bros. 

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is pleased to present Stanley Kubrick an exhibition by the Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main, Christiane Kubrick, and The Stanley Kubrick Archive at University of the Arts London. In 2003, Stanley Kubrick’s personal estate was, for the first time, made accessible and evaluated. This exhibition gathers together a representative selection of these objects: annotated scripts, production photography, lenses and cameras, set models, costumes, and props, in order to document the directors entire career, beginning with his early photography and short documentaries and ending with his last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). In addition, the exhibition explores Napoleon and Aryan Papers, two projects that Kubrick never completed, as well as the technological advances developed and utilized by Kubrick and his team. This exhibition has been traveling internationally for 10 years and has been presented at 14 institutions. It was curated by Hans-Peter Reichmann, senior curator, and Tim Heptner, curator and touring manager. 

Stanley Kubrick with his 35mm Eyemo camera on the set of Killer’s Kiss (United States; 1955). © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Photo: Alexander Singer.
Stanley Kubrick with his 35mm Eyemo camera on the set of Killer’s Kiss (United States; 1955). 
© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Photo: Alexander Singer. 
Born in 1928, Stanley Kubrick was raised in a middle-class Jewish family in the West Bronx. After working as a photographer for LOOK magazine in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he began making short films on a shoestring budget, and made his first major Hollywood film, The Killing, for United Artists in 1956. Following the release of two feature-length films: Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960) his reputation as a filmmaker in Hollywood was established. Over the span of five decades, Kubrick reconceived each genre in which he worked, taking on a broad variety of subjects, themes, and ideas. Throughout his career, Kubrick reinvented his visual style with each film while revisiting a set of conceptual preoccupations. What set him apart from other filmmakers was his ability to construct films that strike us as unexpected, a response that is soon deepened by the realization of the work’s creative integrity. He drew inspiration from many other artists and art forms, and he in turn influenced a vast array of other mediums, including film, art, and design. 

Though he was not raised in a religious household, through his family—descendants of Eastern European Jews—and neighborhood, Kubrick was immersed in a strongly Jewish context. The West Bronx, where he was raised, was home to a growing Jewish middle class in the 1920s and it was in his neighborhood where Kubrick first encountered many of the people who would have profound influence on his film career including, Marvin Traub, who introduced Kubrick to photography; Alexander Singer, cinematographer for Kubrick’s first film Day of the Fight; Gerald Fried, who composed the score for his first five films; and writer Howard Sackler who wrote an early screenplay for Kubrick. In his essay, “An Alternative New York Jewish Intellectual,” Geoffrey Abrams argues that Kubrick’s engagement with a community of Jewish writers and intellectuals situates him in proximity to the “New York Intellectual Family,” a generation of writers and literary critics for whom “their religious/ethnic heritage had a direct and important influence on their work.” The impact of Jewish thought, values, and cultural experience are evident in major themes as well as in subtle hints and allusions. Kubrick’s films deal with, in a grand manner, the concerns of the post-Holocaust world. Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is a multi-faceted presentation of the complete oeuvre of a master filmmaker. By presenting this exhibition at The Contemporary Jewish Museum we have the opportunity to explore and encourage dialogue on not only the vast influence Kubrick’s films have had on arts and culture in the twenty-first century, but also on the influence of Kubrick’s Jewishness on his filmmaking. 

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is now on view at The Contemporary Jewish Museum through October 30, 2016.

About the Author

Anastasia James is the Associate Curator at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco where she is curating the upcoming mid-career survey of Cary Leibowitz. Her research focuses on counterculture and the American avant-garde ca. 1950–70 with particular emphasis on photography and alternative practices. 

James is the co-editor of two book-length monographs: Billy Name: The Silver Age, Photographs from Warhol’s Factory and Brigid Berlin: Polaroids published by Reel Art Press, London. Her recent exhibitions include: Brigid Berlin: It’s All About Me (Invisible-Exports, NYC October 9–November 15, 2016); Billy Name: The Silver Age (Milk Gallery, NYC November 12–December 7, 2014); 13 Most Wanted: Andy Warhol and the 1964 NY World’s Fair (Queens Museum, April 27–September 7, 2014 and The Andy Warhol Museum September 27 2014–January 5, 2015); and Ray Johnson: The Dover Street Years,1953–1960 (Hessel Museum Bard College, March 18–April 15, 2012). 

Prior to joining The CJM team, James has worked for numerous institutions including The Andy Warhol Museum, The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Wurtembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, and the Dia Foundation for the Arts as well as many single artist archives and private collections. In 2012 she received her Master’s Degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.  


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