Shira Fridman, Restless-Shy abady, from "The Restless" catalogue. May, 2017

Restless – Shy Abady
By Shira Fridman
"Thinking and remembering… are the human way of striking roots, of taking one’s place in the world into which we all arrive as strangers."
Hannah Arendt 
The exhibition of works by the artist Shy Abady features ten portraits of "restless" Jewish men and women, which partake of six independent series of paintings. The presentation of these portraits as independent works removed from their original series does away with the historical, biographical, cultural, and narrative contexts in which they were created, giving rise to a new and autonomous body of works that is both related and unrelated to the existing series.
Significantly, the exhibition title is not meant to allude to the theme of the "Wandering Jew" in its conventional sense, suggesting instead that each of the figures be examined as a "spiritually rootless Jew." The shared otherness of these diverse figures is due to their brave and unique ways of thinking, which challenge the conventions of Jewish thought, as well as to their experience of existential angst and constant tension. 
This gallery of characters constitutes an alternative canon of Jewish thinkers. Despite the heterogeneous makeup of this group, which includes a biblical figure, several historical figures, allegorical figures, and portraits of the artist's friends and family members – their choice is far from arbitrary. Rather, it builds on a process of in-depth research on various aesthetic and historical concerns, as well as on Abady's personal experiences.  
King Saul's son Abinadav and Theodor Herzl's son Hans were both constrained to grapple with their role as the sons of important Jewish figures – the first biblical king and the first Zionist leader. Both developed personal expectations that built on their lofty genealogies, and both were constantly criticized by their community members. Their hopes, however, were tragically shattered: Abinadav died in the battle against the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa moments before his father, Saul, fell upon his sword, and Hans took his own life after vacillating between Judaism and Christianity and suffering the impact of his older sister's fragile mental health and premature death.
The portraits of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and of Synagoga (the Medieval Christian personification of Judaism) represent the internalization of this anti-Jewish image by the Jewish community itself. Mary appears here as representing the great social crisis of Jesus' time and the aspiration to establish a "New Judaism," whereas Synagoga represents the negative characterization of the Jews, which also impacted their own self-image. 
The 19th-century composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (the grandson of Moshe Mendelssohn, who founded the Jewish enlightenment movement in Germany) was born into an impossible reality, in which Jews were forced to give up their Judaism in order to assimilate into German society. Even though he converted to Christianity, Mendelssohn kept his Jewish last name. 
The philosopher Hannah Arendt, who lived during and after the Holocaust, was perceived in her lifetime as a controversial figure within the Jewish world. Following the major debate provoked by her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, she was almost entirely banned in Israel and by additional Jewish communities, and is perhaps the most quintessential representative of these "restless" figures.
The portraits of the artist's grandfather and mother, on which the artist inscribed his family name in Arabic, represent the artist's choice to portray his family members as Arab-Jews, who experience a certain degree of estrangement living in contemporary Israel, and long for their roots in the Arab-Jewish sphere. By means of these family portraits, the artists points a critical finger at Israeli-Jewish society, which turned its back on the surrounding geographical and cultural Arab sphere in its pursuit of Western culture.
Abady himself appears in a self-portrait from his series "Icons," which captures his face imprisoned inside a wooden box as he directs his gaze at the viewers. Another portrait captures a friend of the artist who is seen from behind, with his face concealed. The anonymity of this figure may well point to the universal state of "restlessness" experienced by all human beings. 
 1  Hannah Arendt, Responsibility and Judgment, ed. Jerome Kohn, New York: Schocken Books, 2003, p. 100