web analytics
October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » Sections » Arts »

A Glimpse Of Meaning Russian Post-Modernists At YUM

Remembrance: Russian Post-Modern Nostalgia -
Yeshiva University Museum – Center for Jewish History.

West 16th Street, New York, N.Y.;

(212) 294-8330

Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11a.m.-5 p.m.;

$6 adults, $4 children

until February 1, 2004.

 

 

The need to reassert a shattered cultural identity should be familiar to Jews. As a people, we are used to the historical rug being pulled out from under us every now and then. It’s G-d’s way of keeping us on our toes. After the Romans leveled the Second Temple, effectively
cutting out the heart of Judaism, we had to forge a new identity. Likewise, the trials and tribulations of the Diaspora have repeatedly demanded a reassessment of cultural definitions. We were highly cultured Spaniards until 1492 and then we were again cast among the nations.
The same experience of displacement was repeated in France, Germany and England over the centuries. Finally, our cultured homes and way of life in Western and Eastern Europe were incinerated and yet another cultural identity went up in smoke. The survivors and their descendents are still struggling to remake a viable Jewish culture in America and in Israel. This has been a numbingly constant Jewish paradigm for 2,000 years.

Therefore there is something familiar about the diversity, dislocation and postmodern chaos in the works of the 24 artists in Remembrance: Russian Post-Modern Nostalgia currently at Yeshiva University Museum. This exhibition by some of the foremost Russian artists of their generation displays their artistic lives hewn out of the ruins of the Soviet Empire. As critic Donald Kuspit surveys these works, he perceives “the problem of achieving an autonomous identity and strong sense of selfhood [that] haunts Russian art…”

Russian art boasts an illustrious history from pre-Revolutionary icons to the radically modern
Constructivist movement of the teens and early 20′s. Such abstract and highly conceptual works were finally crushed by Stalin’s Social Realism, which was the totalitarian norm, from the 1930s until the mid 1950′s. It was only after the death of Stalin in 1953 that the cultural climate began a slow thaw that was itself shattered by the catastrophic break-up of the Soviet
Union in December 1991. Most of the artists shown here are representative of this unique cultural transition from a tightly controlled society to what may be deemed contemporary cultural chaos.

Perhaps one of the most telling images that expresses what curator Alexandre Gertsman defines as “nostalgia for culture and for the destruction of culture; a longing for refinement and for vandalism…” is, I Saw Stalin Once When I Was a Child (1982) [in catalogue] by Komar and Melamid. The chilling vision of the Great Leader peering from the back of a black sedan
encapsulates the haunting presence of totalitarian authority and destructiveness that permeates the Russian soul. The exhibition is dominated by ironic images of Soviet relics that repeatedly attempt to deconstruct the terrible years and corrosive ideas that dominated their artistic youth.

Natalya Nesterova is represented by a number of works that considers multiple perspectives of cultural dislocation. Dream on the Shore (Reading Buber) (1999) transports us to a surreal scene of comatose relaxation while savoring a volume of Martin Buber in Hebrew. An
incongruous dragonfly against the leaden sky seems to illustrate the fleeting fragility of philosophical speculation in a world adrift from normative values. A similarly illusive image of Golden Angel (1999) attempts to take flight over a grim city below. The city may be burning;
the whole civilization in ruins, but the radiant angel cannot escape to its heavenly home. There is a persuasive hopelessness, a trapped spirituality that characterizes many of her works. The earlier Angel With Eyes Open (1991) anticipates this dread in a faceless angel that is paradoxically all seeing, all knowing and yet impotent to act. The entire winged figure is covered with eyes, a terrible presence that hovers against a gray threatening sky. Nesterova addresses a reinvigorated Judaism by a cautious exploration of the spiritually that was crushed, persecuted and denied in her nation’s recent past.

Likewise, Grisha Bruskin seeks a Jewish medium to exorcise Soviet demons. His background in Soviet Pop Art, called Sots-Art, and Soviet symbolism has flowed into an obsession with Jewish culture. Here a defining referent is the shared culture of “The Book.” His works, both paintings and flat silhouette sculpture tend to multiple series, echoing the multiple pages of books. Metamorphoses (1992) is composed of ten diminutive steel cut-outs painted in red or black enamel, depicting angels, demons, devils and a haunted Everyman that allegedly represents an 18th Century Kabbalistic text. These deeply disturbing images seem to emerge from a shared unconscious thousands of years old. In contrast to many other works in this show, there is a distinct lack of nostalgia in his works. Rather, because of his use of a stark modernist sculptural form, Bruskin’s works point to a vision of Jewish spirituality that is at once terrifyingly ancient and resolutely contemporary.

His paintings enlarge upon the textual motif by utilizing actual texts in a lined background against which his fantastic figures are painted. Message 5 (1989-90) [in catalogue] is part of a larger series that depicts a cosmic struggle that has been brought to earth and encased in a fragmented text. Snatches of Hebrew and Aramaic script surface in boldface, while the majority of the text remains unintelligible. The images seem to want to narrate, and yet an overload of information intrudes. One assumes that Bruskin mixes personal, political and
historical images with deliberately obscure texts to obfuscate the painting’s meaning. This tactic
unfortunately creates a cultural chasm that proves extremely difficult to cross.

These glimpses of meaning, attempts at construction even while acknowledging that reconstruction of a shattered cultural identity may be futile, represent but one response to the cultural dislocation so keenly felt by contemporary Russian artists. What is extremely intriguing about this exhibition is the particular way in which various echoes of Jewish themes, from disengaged angels to exploration of secular and sacred Jewish texts, have been utilized to address a problem that has a very real parallel in contemporary Jewish creativity.



Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at www.richardmcbee.com.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Glimpse Of Meaning Russian Post-Modernists At YUM”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) meets with Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon in Halifax, Canada on November 22, 2013.
Ya’alon Scraps Purchase of US Aircraft
Latest Sections Stories
Part of the reconstructed Gwozdziec Synagogue.

The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews is designed to tell the whole thousand-year story of the Jews in Poland.

Nimchinsky-102414-Flag

This past summer was a powerful one for the Jewish people. I will always remember where I was on June 12th when I found out that Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were kidnapped. I will always remember the look on my sister’s face on June 30th when she told me that they were found. I will […]

Schonfeld-logo1

Avromi often put other people’s interests before his own: he would not defend people whom he believed were guilty (even if they were willing to pay him a lot of money).

The Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest from three companies that do business with Israel.

How can I help my wife learn to say “no,” and understand that her first priority must be her husband and family?

My eyes skimmed an article on page 1A. I was flabbergasted. I read the title again. Could it be? It had good news for the Miami Jewish community.

Students in early childhood, elementary, and middle school were treated to an array of hands-on projects to create sukkah decorations such as wind chimes, velvet posters, sand art, paper chains, and more.

It is important for a therapist to focus on a person’s strengths as a way of overcoming his or her difficulties.

Sadly, there are mothers who, due to severe depression are unable or unwilling to prepare nourishing food for their children.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/a-glimpse-of-meaning-russian-post-modernists-at-yum/2003/11/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: