«Jewish Observer»
June 2002
5762 Sivan

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Since the times of rock anthropoid drawings of the Paleolithic period till nowadays a portrait remains one of the most intriguing genres of fine arts. A painter often uncovers what is willy-nilly hidden from human eyes, he often rushes into the abyss of human passions, and then a portrait acquires a truly mystic significance (let's recall an almost true story of portrait of Dorian Grey). A portrait painter feels double responsibility: duty before a model and duty of a master who creates a work of art.

In late May the Kiev gallery "Dim Mykoly" hosted "Portrait exhibition" - another in the series of exhibitions within the program "Agada" of Institute of Judaic Studies. If all previous exhibitions of the program were personal expositions of painters working over a Jewish theme, this one presented works of 22 authors. To define this very "Jewish theme" in such genre as portrait painting one should either look into a model's passport or ask a painter about his own nationality. But who can dare to act so?

What unites such different masters? Obviously, this is pressure of their and their models common past and, also, a still surviving glow of the Jewish life in Ukraine.

The exposition shows works of young but already rather known painters: Vera Vaisberg, Paola Litovchenko, Nikolai Sokolov, Pavel Fishel. There are also works of masters who have entered the history of fine arts in Ukraine: Mikhail Vainshtein, Akim Levich, Zoya Lerman, Zinovy Tolkachev, Anna Fainerman. Works by the exhibition participants Yelena Agamyan, Joseph Vaisblat, Boris Partnoy, Boris Rapoport, Lubov Rapoport, Mikhail Roitman, Ilya and Anel Tolkachev can be found in the museums and galleries of not only Ukraine and Russia, but of Europe and USA as well. Grigory Hasid is a famous sculptor and, besides, one of most wonderful pedagogues who teach fine arts in Ukraine.

Alongside with the "Portrait exhibition", the community center "Kinor' hosted a personal exhibition of the program participant Yevgeny Roitman.

Creative activity of Mikhil Turovsky (USA) and Leonid Balaklav (Israel) is linked with Ukraine. They long live abroad, but their works are kept in private collections, which owners have agreed to let these works exhibited.

The exhibition visitors could acquaint with 12 works by a Kiev photo artist, residing now in USA, Dmitry Peisakhov. He presented a big collection of his works to the Institute of Judaic Studies.

It is impossible to tell even in brief about works of 22 artists, and I have no desire to pass over somebody in silence having undeservedly offended a master. Of importance is that exhibitions of the "Agada" program attract attention of Ukrainian and Jewish intelligentsia, professional art historians and painters to the life of Jewish diaspora. The exhibition hall was always packed with spectators, since the gallery is housed in the building of Kiev palace of children and youth, and this place is attended by representatives of different generations.

Any contemporary artist in diaspora could hardly call himself a "Jewish painter". A painter, who was born in Israel, irrespective of the style he sticks to, be a Jewish painter, isn't he? As well as a painter residing in Ukraine is Ukrainian and in France - French. The definition "Jewish painter" presupposes diversity of plans and senses. A Jewish painter combines the school he has passed to become a professional, interest towards world fine arts and attraction to a century-old Jewish tradition, desire to penetrate into it, to get a feeling of Jewish culture, Jewish trades, Jewish daily life. Such abundance of layers of a Jewish painter's awareness results in complexity of images, richness of associations. Probably, it is far from bad there is no necessity for Jewish art to return to a ghetto, but there is an opportunity to absorb all richness of the world culture.

Masters, whose life and activity are connected with Ukraine and who have works on Jewish themes, have already become or can become participants to the "Agada" program of Institute of Judaic Studies. American Jewish united distribution committee "Joint" and Jewish Confederation of Ukraine help the Institute to put this program to life.


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