Simon Glass

The Seventy-Two Names of God, 1991

This piece takes its title from a Kabbalistic meditation. Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, places a great deal of emphasis on the individual letters that make up the Old Testament. The seventy-two names, one of which appears on each print in this piece, were derived from the three verses in the Bible that immediately precede the splitting of the Red Sea. Each of these verses has seventy-two letters. The names are constructed by taking one letter from each verse for each name. Since the 13th century, the Seventy-Two Names have been employed as a meditation, used to induce a vision of the divine.

The piece is eighteen prints long by four prints high. Eighteen is the number symbolic of the Hebrew word meaning life, and four is the number of Kabbalistic levels of creation. Within the seventy-two prints, twelve images are repeated. Male and female nude figures, one per photograph, are shown. One name is painted in gold gouache on each print. The prints are arranged in such a way as to suggest the coexistence of order and chaos. The positioning of the name in the genital area is a suggestion that Judaism, like many religious systems, may have had at its origin a profound wonder at our capacity for procreation, and that there is a relationship between conceptions of human and divine creation.

The integrity of the piece was lost in 2004 when six of the prints were stolen from the Toronto Alternative Art Fair International at the Drake Hotel in Toronto.