“Clothing for Jews in Soviet Russia.” Cartoon, Forverts (New York, 5 February 1921). The Yiddish tag on the package bears the address of the People’s Relief Committee, founded in the United States during World War I to provide aid to Jews in Eastern Europe. (YIVO)
Chagall: Love, War, and Exile
"In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love." - Marc Chagall
With fall comes the opening of The Jewish Museum's new blockbuster show, Marc Chagall: Love, War, and Exile. For the first time in the U.S., an exhibition truly explores a significant but neglected period in the artist’s career: the rise of fascism in the 1930s through 1948, his years spent in Paris and then in exile to New York.
“The exhibition provides an opportunity to reevaluate Marc Chagall’s art in the context of his life,” said Susan Tumarkin Goodman, senior curator emerita, who organized the show.
Although it is an exhibition which highlights the tragedies in Marc Chagall’s life- from the death of his wife, Bella, to the suffering of the Jews throughout Europe- it is also full of hope, expressed in joy-filled paintings replete with intense color and levitating figures.
Marc Chagall: Love, War, and Exile is on view from September 15, 2013 - February 2, 2014.
Alef-beys (Alphabet). Yisakhar Ber Rybak, 1918. Oil on canvas.
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Eugene Abeshaus, "Adam ate and ate fruit that Eve gave him, but doesn’t know anything" (1977)
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Eugene Abeshaus, "He had no other place in the world" (1977)
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Jonah and the Whale in Haifa Port by Eugene Abeshaus, 1939.
Eugene Zalmanovich Abeshaus (also spelled Evgeny Abezgauz, Евгений Абезгауз in Russian; 1939–2008) was a Jewish artist who worked in the USSR and Israel.
Born in Leningrad to a typical intelligentsia family, Abeshaus was educated as an electrical engineer but soon abandoned this career and enrolled in the Mukhina School for Applied Art. By the time of his graduation from the famous “Mukha” (Fly in Russian), he had developed a critical stance towards the official Soviet art dominated by the Communist ideology and began exhibiting at semi-underground exhibitions. This was culminated by his taking part in a famous 1975 exhibition at the Nevsky Palace of Culture. Abeshaus was fired from his job and censured by the official press.
Soon afterwards, Abeshaus, together with several Jewish artists, set up the Alef Group and became its leader. According to the Alef Manifesto written by Alec Rappoport, “We are trying to conquer the influence of small-town Jewish art and find sources for our work in deeper, wiser, and more spiritual European culture, and from it build a bridge to today and tomorrow.”
In May 1976, some of Abeshaus’s works, clandestinely sneaked out of the country, were exhibited at the Berkeley Art Museum to much critical acclaim. Later in the same year, following some political bargain between Leonid Brezhnev and President Jimmy Carter, Abeshaus and his family were finally permitted to leave the USSR for Israel.
Since then Abeshaus lived and worked in Ein Hod, a picturesque artists’ village near Haifa founded by Marcel Janco. His works were shown at numerous exhibitions, including dozens of one-artist shows in Israel, USA, Europe, and, after the collapse of the USSR, in Russia. His ultimate acceptance and recognition there culminated in a sensational memorial one-artist exhibition staged in 2009 at the famous Russian Museum in St. Petersburg - an exceptional honor for a modern artist. [x]
See more of his artwork here.
Grisha Bruskin - Alefbet Lexicon (1987-1988)
Grisha Bruskin (Moscow, 1945) was raised in the Soviet Union. When he saw an exposition of Marc Chagall, he became aware of the vanished world of the shtetl that he only knew from books. Bruskin dreamt of exhibiting his own Jewish-inspired work. His first solo-expositions in Moscow and Vilna were forced to close because government officials thought his work propagated Zionism.
The Alefbet Lexicon researches Jewish archetypes and consists of patriarchal figures who proudly express their Jewish faith through traditional clothing and attributes. He paints mysteriously dressed Jews who carry symbols like matzohs (matzohs were hardly available in the Soviet Union), chandeliers and other rare ritual objects, like Torah-scrolls, Siddurim, fruits and plants used for Jewish holidays, there are also winged angels, pious mystics and possessed souls. Isolated like the saints on Russian icons they seem to express a nostalgia to a religious world that no longer existed in the Soviet Union. All these isolated figures could form a new system: a new Jewish ‘text’, an encyclopedia of images and ideas. Bruskins figures are begging to come alive, like the seperate blocks of commentary that surround the classical Jewish text are waiting to be revitalised through a debate with the modern day reader.
Source: Edward van Voolen. Joodse Kunst en Cultuur (Jewish Art and Culture) 2006.
Grisha Bruskin (Grigoriy Davidovich Bruskin, Russian: Григорий Давидович Брускин; born 1945 in Moscow) is a Russian Jewish painter, active until 1989 in the Soviet Union, and since 1989 in the United States.
Bruskin’s Soviet-era work was nonconformist and largely dealt with being Jewish in the Soviet Union. Many of his works reference Kabbalah, though generally without putting forth any narrative interpretation. His 1982 painting In the Red Space attracted unfavorable attention from the authorities for depicting a golem wearing a Soviet uniform, carrying a synagogue out of which people are falling, all against a red background. In 1989, he emigrated to the United States, where he became one of the more successful Russian-Jewish émigré artists. [x]
You can see more of his artwork at his website.
Antonio de la Gandara - Ida Rubinstein (1913)
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