Art and Magic
By Brooke Kamin Rapaport
(Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300146844, 280pp.)
Publication Date: November 2010
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Born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary, Harry Houdini (1874–1926) was a rabbi’s son who became one of the 20th century’s most famous performers. His gripping theatrical presentations and heart-stopping outdoor spectacles attracted unprecedented crowds, and his talent for self-promotion and provocation captured headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.
Though Houdini’s work has earned him a place in the cultural pantheon, the details of his personal life and public persona are subjects of equal fascination. His success was both cause for celebration in the Jewish community and testament to his powers of self-reinvention. In Houdini: Art and Magic, essays on the artist’s life and work are accompanied by interviews with novelist E. L. Doctorow, magician Teller (of Penn and Teller), and contemporary artists including Raymond Pettibon and Matthew Barney, documenting Houdini’s evolution and influence from the late 19th century to the present. Beautifully illustrated with a range of visual material, including Houdini’s own diaries, iconic handcuffs, and straitjacket, alongside rare period posters, prints, and photographs, this book brings Houdini—both the myth and the man—back to life.
Brooke Kamin Rapaport is a curator and writer. Alan Brinkley is the Allan Nevins Professor of History at Columbia University. Gabriel de Guzman is Neubauer Family Foundation Curatorial Assistant at The Jewish Museum. Hasia R. Diner is Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University. Kenneth Silverman is professor emeritus at New York University.
“A first-rate contribution to the Houdini canon.”—Jewish Book World
"A handsome catalogue."—Vanity Fair
"Images from the exhibition make up the bulk of this book. The materials gathered here are eye-popping promotional ephemera, family photographs, and a mountain of visual representations of Houdini. . . . Any Houdini fan must own this book, though it will also have wide-crossover appeal for those interested in topics as diverse as the Jewish experience in America to the graphic arts and historical representation. Thoughtfully written and gorgeously designed, it''s the perfect introduction to the master of escapes."—W. Scott Poole, Pop Matters
-W. Scott Poole
Finalist, Visual Arts, 2011 National Jewish Book Awards