NEW YORK (Apr. 6)
In response to the opening one block away in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Russian and Soviet paintings, a “counter-exhibition” entitled “The Art of Freedom” and featuring works by Jewish artists who left the USSR after rebelling against officially-sanctioned Socialist Realism will be presented by the American Jewish Congress beginning April 13 at Stephen Wise Congress House.
Among the artists who will be represented in “The Art of Freedom” is Ernst Neizvestny, a Soviet Jewish emigre who is regarded as the most important artistic figure to quit the Soviet Union since Kandinsky and Chagall.
Neizvestny, who emigrated from Moscow in 1976 after years of harassment and now has a studio in the Soho section of New York City, will show a series of 10 recent paintings and drawings on the theme of “Yiskor,” which he has described as “expressing the anguish of the Jewish people for their martyrs through the ages.” These are new works that could not be shown in the USSR, which prohibits the display of religious expression on canvas. The exhibit marks his first showing since he arrived in the United States.
Three other Jewish artists will also show their paintings at the exhibition. They are: Igor Galinin, formerly of Moscow, and Ilya Shenker and Alexander Richter, both from Odessa. “The Art of Freedom” will continue daily (except Saturday) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through April 17. Admission is free. “Russian and Soviet Paintings” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens April 16 and continues through June 26.
“None of the modern Russian paintings at the Metropolitan reflects Jewish life or the life of any religious group in the USSR,” according to Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress. He added: “The American Jewish Congress is proud to sponsor this ‘counter-exhibition’ in solidarity with Russian Jews still living under oppression, in sympathy with Jewish artists who live in a state that prohibits the display of religious expression on canvas and in honor of the courage and determination of the handful of Russian Jewish artists who have won their struggle to be free and to express their Jewish identity.”
A graphicist and sculptor, Netzvestny said he left the USSR because “the Soviet authorities did not permit the exhibition of my works that are based on the Bible and Jewish history.”