web analytics
August 2, 2014 / 6 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
Sections
Sponsored Post
Ultimate Mission – November 2014

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore Israel off the beaten track, feel the conflict first hand, understand the security issues and politic realities, and have an unforgettable trip!



Home » Sections » Arts »

Gleizer’s Paintings: From The Heart Of The Beast

Chassidic Art Institute – 375 Kingston Avenue,
Brooklyn, New York 11213; (718) 774 9149.

Noon – 7 p.m.; Sunday – Thursday

Zev Markowitz, director.

 

 

Mikhail Gleizer was born at the end of the Second World War in the Soviet Ukraine under the reign of the dictator Joseph Stalin. He grew up in the totalitarian state of Khrushchev and first attended art school in Leningrad while Premier Leonid Brezhnev ruled the one-party state of the Soviet Union. The prospects for free and uncensored creativity were sparse during those years, and yet Gleizer slowly built a career. He exhibited his paintings, watercolors and graphics in many of the official exhibitions that the Party bureaucracy allowed, in addition to scattered independent and international venues. It was not easy to be an artist in those years,
especially since a growing body of his work concerned Jewish themes. Yet he continued to make paintings throughout the 1980′s and achieved a certain success in book illustration, including Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye the Milkman.

Additionally, he created many prestigious theater and costume designs. Not surprisingly, the nuclear disaster at nearby Chernobyl in 1986 cast a pall over his artistic success. Finally, in 1991 Gleizer left his homeland and immigrated to the United States. Now in his new home in Brooklyn, he is showing a collection of 22 paintings from the 1980′s at the Chassidic Art
Institute. Remarkable works on their own, the context in which they were created infuses them with a passionate urgency that we cannot ignore.

Three interrelated subjects, all detailing Jewish life set in small Ukrainian villages, dominate the exhibition. A collection of ten lyrical depictions of Jewish tradesmen from fishmonger and grocer to the local butcher establishes an honest and simple tone to the paintings. A set of four paintings from 1985 presents a village intersection lined with a jumble of houses from an aerial
perspective. Finally, eight paintings done in the early 1980′s focus on the people of the village as they observe Yom Tov, Shabbos and a genuine Jewish life.

Each tradesman dominates the center of his painting, surrounded by his place of business and
occasionally confronted by a customer from the village. The straightforward, folksy and rather programmatic depictions belie the complex paint handling. In The Glazier (1987), the stock, peasant figure is deceptively centered while the shifting planes on the ground around him expressively push and pull the figure as he carries newly glazed window frames. They form a kind of picture within a picture, gently reflecting the workman as he trudges through the village. There is more here than meets the eye.

Gleizer’s pictorial narrative becomes more complex in the paintings of the village streets. The intersection, seen from a slightly elevated perspective, tilts dangerously up towards us. At times, the houses veer off to each side threatening to slide off the face of the earth. In one painting, we see a horse and buggy careening up a street as a bicycle plummets down another in a dizzying dance. This unnerving perspective is rooted however in the simcha that follows.

In The Orchestra (1985), a three-man klezmer band approaches from the bottom of the canvas, announcing a wedding that appears in the next painting. The heavily impasto-paint builds a passionate joy that seems to infect the streets, houses and finally, the very heavens themselves. The subtle shades of white, cream and pinks of the streets and sky impart an otherworldly glow to the joyous village celebration.

Zev Markowitz, curator of the exhibition, explains that these images accurately depict Jewish life as it was in some small Ukrainian villages in the 1980′s. While what we see here seems normal for Russia of 100 years ago, can it really be true, a mere 20 years ago? Evidently so,
and that is why these simple paintings take on the force of a revelation. Gleizer clearly understood how important it was to capture the Jewish life that refused to be obliterated under the relentless heel of Communism. Making these paintings as the Soviet Union was collapsing under the weight of its own oppression, was an act of resistance celebrating the Jewish communities that tenaciously remained.

The final set of paintings provides a glimpse into the substance of their lives that afforded so much resistance. Succos seems to come alive as men prance through the streets with lulav and esrog on the way to shul on Chol Hamoed. The joyous procession of a Sefer Torah through the streets confirms the spiritual heart of the community. While such public displays of Jewish
piety might provoke comment and perhaps even censure in many of the streets of America, one can only wonder what risks these Jews braved in Communist Russia.

One of the more tender paintings depicts a young family on a Shabbos or Yom Tov outing. Dressed in their finest, but simple clothes, they stroll alongside a river with the village peacefully seen behind them. The wife is a picture of modest beauty while the husband, who
seems to be startled at being viewed by the artist, shelters his young daughter against the black of his bechesheh.

A gentle spring shower of white blossoms magically dapples the bucolic scene. This is a picture of the simple Torah life lived in harmony and peace we could all aspire to.

Piety is a notoriously difficult emotion to convey without lapsing into sentimentality and emotionalism. The very vulnerability that it exposes to the world demands that its expression be modest. Torah 2 (1980) captures the simple act of honor towards a Sefer Torah being carried through the streets, possibly to a house of mourning. On the right, a man bends over, bowing to kiss the mantle of the crimson Torah. Behind him, ghost-like figures pass to and fro while the shul guards the scene from the far side of the street. Piety blossoms into a humble expression of honor as the painting seems to suggest to us that there is no place that the sacred cannot be acknowledged. Our job is to simply recognize it.

Zev Markowitz, the director of the Chassidic Art Institute, tells me these paintings depict scenes from little villages, shtetlach in the Vinnitza and Jetomir region of the Ukraine that Gleizer would visit to paint and draw. Considering the oppressive world that these villages
existed in, they seem a universe removed from the freedom that we take so much for granted here. And yet I recognize the people, their lives, passions and their faith. They are my people. For Gleizer to make that leap from oppression to freedom, across what amounts to a veritable chasm, is a testament to a unique amalgam of personal courage and creative faith in the Jewish People. These humble paintings are illuminated by his courage.


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 “Gleizer’s Paintings: From The Heart Of The Beast”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Cleared for Release: 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin Abducted by Hamas, 2 IDF Soldiers Killed
Latest Sections Stories

For many, contemplating our exile from our homeland is more of an intellectual endeavor than an emotional one.

I encourage all singles and their parents to urge their shadchanim to participate in ShadchanZone.

People definitely had stress one hundred and fifty years ago, but it was a different kind of stress.

It is inspirational to see the average Israeli acting with aplomb and going about daily routines no matter what is happening.

Participants wore blue and white, waved Israeli flags, and carried pro-Israel posters.

To support the Victor Center for Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases at Miami Children’s, please call 305-666-2889 or visit www.mchf.org/donate and select the “Victor Center” fund.

The course will be taught once a month for seven consecutive months and is designed for women at all levels of Jewish knowledge.

Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.

The president’s message was one of living peacefully in a Jewish and democratic state, Jews of all stripes unified as brothers, with Arabs or citizens of other religions.

What Hashem desires most is that we learn to connect with each other as children in the same family.

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

Spending time in a society as different as the Far East, expands a person’s perspective.

More Articles from Richard McBee

ense, along with the voluminous Oral Tradition in the Talmud, its commentaries and elaborations, make the Jewish artist the richest creative person imaginable.

The midrashic world is a dangerous place to inhabit. It delves into our sacred texts to fathom their deeper meanings, solve vexing textual and conceptual problems and, finally, make sense of the holy words in contemporary terms. Midrash is passionate and deeply creative, like the current midrashic paintings of Brian Shapiro.

Our encounters with the Divine are precious moments of personal religiosity. We believe that when we pray we are speaking directly to God and that at that moment we are in the Divine presence. And yet we are seldom conscious of the awe and fear we should also feel.

Just look at the expression on Yonah’s face. It combines fear and incomprehension at his terrible punishment of floating in the belly of the great fish.

Two of Alan Falk’s biblical paintings immediately assault us aesthetically and thematically. Isaac Blessing Jacob (2009) and The Cry of Esau (2010) document the famous stolen blessing of Beraishis 27 and its consequences. The ancient Isaac is clad in a white nightshirt, raising his bony hands in blessing over his two sons. In one, Jacob has donned a curly-haired brown Afro deceitfully offering his blind father food, while in the other, Isaac’s trembling hands attempt to bless the hysterical Esau at his feet. The cartoonish figures are caught in a melodrama of high-keyed color and exaggerated gesture that casts the biblical tale into an unfamiliar and strange realm.

Empathy and memory meet in the work of Meer Akselrod (1902-1970), the Jewish Russian artist who defied aesthetic convention and totalitarian dictates to relentlessly pursue his personal artistic vision of painting the Jewish people. His quiet courage in the face of epochal changes that convulsed his Russian homeland cannot be overestimated. They are amply attested to by his artwork, not the least of which are two pen and ink drawings, Pogrom, from 1927 – 1928, currently at the Chassidic Art Institute.

When Brocha Teichman was a young girl growing up, she always drew pictures.

Sky & Water, a new installation of 106 paintings by Tobi Kahn at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, concentrates on one esoteric subject: the contemplation of the horizon.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/gleizers-paintings-from-the-heart-of-the-beast/2004/03/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: