The drawing offers a voyeur's view of its subject, and Witkin, 60, admits with relish that he, too, is something of a voyeur. As a child, he used to peer in on the residents of his Brooklyn tenement house in a rough part of the waterfront, until the day his grandfather caught him. His grandfather then dragged young Jerome back to his mother's apartment, picked him up by the ears and declared in Italian, "This one is a spy."
Witkin still is a spy, of events both intimate and universal. His work includes small, still paintings and vast, cinematic polyptychs that bear witness to the terrible events of this century: political torture, assassination, AIDS, the Holocaust.
He is most renown for his Holocaust works, which have received an "almost reverential" response from the curators and critics who have visited the show, Rutberg says. Rutberg adds that he placed the most disturbing paintings in the back room of the gallery so they will not upset children or survivors who wander in off the street.