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Hands Cannot Hold: Fantasy Drawings by Chaim Gross

The Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation

November 4, 2021 - March 12, 2022

Drawing with bright colors depicting a woman at the left of the image with her hands appearing to grow to be the same size as her body

Chaim Gross, Happy and Unhappy, 1948

Watercolor and wax crayon on paper

Surreal image of women's bodies and birds

Chaim Gross, Hidden Desire, 1950

Watercolor, wax crayon, graphite, and ink on paper

Press Release

Chaim Gross (1902–91) is primarily known for his sculpture and accompanying graphic, flowing sculpture studies. Lesser known are his private Fantasy Drawings in a completely different style and handling of pen and ink. Gross’s drawings and watercolors from this body of work stretch over five decades and were often done at home in the evenings while seated in his easy chair. These Surreal drawings were created through a stream-of-consciousness method, allowing for overlapping, webbed imagery and deliberate obfuscation. Images are often hopeful and sensual, but also sometimes violent and disturbing. Works can be difficult to look at, especially when they reflect on the Holocaust and Gross’s own memories of his experiences during World War I. The drawings were the subject of the 1956 publication Chaim Gross: Fantasy Drawings, which included an analytical essay by psychoanalyst Samuel Atkin, MD. 


Hands Cannot Hold: Fantasy Drawings by Chaim Gross includes materials from the Foundation’s archives, sculpture by Gross and unknown Dan and Kota artists from the Foundation’s historic African arts collection, and 50 works on paper by Gross. A selection of Fantasy Drawings was shown most recently in 2012 at the Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf, NY following the exhibition Fantasy: Chaim Gross Drawings, 1944-50 in 2010-11 at the Foundation. The pieces are light sensitive and will only be on view for a limited period of time. 



All objects are from the collection of the Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation. 


This exhibition is curated by Sasha Davis, Executive Director, and Brittany Cassandra, Collections and Programs Manager.

"Hands are many things, they are creative, or they can frustrate you and keep you back; they can caress and hurt, hold, or cannot grasp. They are pliant, joyous, or they can feel like needles of pain. They can mingle the happy or the unhappy. They can combine with bird or animal form.… In short, who can exhaust the ideas of hands?


But I can’t tie symbols down neatly. I can’t take them apart and add them together like numbers.… There are the symbols of Bosch, or of Ensor, of Dali, Miró, Klee, or Chagall.… All of them do what they want with this fascinating switch of thoughts into shapes. And all of them hint, they reveal and conceal.… And who can diagnose each symbol precisely? And I can’t, either."


- Chaim Gross, in conversation with art historian A.L. Chanin for Chaim Gross: Fantasy Drawings (1956)