History and Art at Russian Heritage Month

"Horseman with Bow," 2012, by Dashi Namdakov. (Image courtesy of Russian-American Foundation via Russian Heritage Month event schedule)

“Horseman with Bow,” 2012, by Dashi Namdakov. (Image courtesy of Russian-American Foundation via Russian Heritage Month event schedule)

[Editor’s note: The 13th annual Russian Heritage Month, started by the Russian American Foundation (RAF), was held in June in collaboration with the New York Post. It highlighted both visual and performing arts from the Russian-American community, and offered lectures and other special events. Vitaly Orlov of Russkaya Reklama writes about numerous events and exhibits, including “Shtetl: Graphic Works and Sketches of Solomon Yudovin (1920-1940),” which runs through Sept. 30 at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 15 West 16th St. 

RUNYweb focused on one exhibit, “Lives of the Great Patriotic War: The Untold Story of Jewish Soviet Soldiers in the Red Army During WWII,” which runs through Aug. 30 at The National Arts Club, Gregg Gallery, 15 Gramercy Park South.

Both stories, translated by Svetlana Buniatof, can be read below.]

New York’s audience once again was pleasantly surprised by a Buryat artist and sculptor, Dashi Namdakov, who is already known in America for his jewelry and works in bronze. This time he sent to the festival several advanced graphic works with large occult images. Along with the photographs on shamans and shamanism from the collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography (St. Petersburg), they amounted to a curious and extremely interesting exhibition.

New York’s National Arts Club, which hosted the exhibition of the works of Dashi Namdakov, simultaneously offered its galleries to artists Yelena Lezhen and Anya Rubin. Their exhibition, under the title “The Memory of Time and Space,” can be seen as a kind of a creative dialogue between two talented artists who were born in different countries (Lezhen in Kiev, Ukraine, and Rubin in St. Petersburg, Russia).

Anya Rubin has lived in America since 1975. She doesn’t have a degree in the arts because she never planned to be an artist. “After giving birth to my triplets,” says Rubin, “I eventually had to find some activities for my little kids to do. I would drop sheets of paper on the floor, and we would try to portray something on them. My parents, designers by profession, saw something independent in my attempts, and supported me in that.”

The signature work of Rubin is a portrait called “Natalia.” At first glance, it’s merely a few strokes of color, but they create a psychologically accurate image. Rubin says about this technique: “First, I take a photo and upload it to the computer. It can be a portrait, landscape, or even electronic microchip. Then, I experiment with the image, and once the result looks the way I conceived it, I write it in oil on acrylic.” Thus, Rubin seeks to identify the essence of traditional and non-traditional objects of art in the spirit of the times. Rubin’s works got some experts interested and in a short period of time she had exhibitions in New York, Miami, and Paris.

An Italian publication, Effetto Arte, called Rubin’s works “digital surrealism.” She believes that an artist must focus on their own vision.

I was introduced to the works of Yelena Lezhen a little earlier – at an exhibition organized in support of Ukraine by New York and Kiev artists. Now she presents her works from several series: “Carnival of Life,” “Birds and People,” “Dreams,” “Music and Poetry,” “Myths,” “War and Peace,” and others. “Almost all of my work was born out of graphics,” says Elena. “My father, a physics teacher, dreamed of becoming an art critic. Therefore, I was living in the world of museums since my childhood. Then there was art school, and then Industrial Arts College. Then there was emigration, new friends, and new experiences.

“Once, I was in an art store and came across a folder with black paper. After I opened it and ran my hand over it, it was as if I saw an image. The paper spoke. I began to apply color blots on paper and after that there appeared a drawing that united all of these blots. Maybe that’s why in my drawings there is flexibility, transparency, fluidity, and the constant transformation of forms, thoughts, and emotions… I think that my works are a dialogue with a spectator-interlocutor.”

A logical extension of the exhibition “The Memory of Time and Space” has somewhat later become another exposition at the same National Arts Club. It’s called “Collectively Independent: An Exhibit of Russian-American Women Artists.” Anya Rubin is also there, as well as Julia Lanina, Valentina Loseva, Anya Rose, and Irina Sheynfeld. They represent the union of young artists, formed by a youth art association created by RAF in conjunction with the COJECO BluePrint Fellowship. The works of the young female artists, the participants of prestigious exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, are distinguished by their energetic search for their own path in the world of arts.

Programs on the fine arts of the 13th annual Russian Heritage Month festival also included a graphics exhibition of an outstanding Russian artist of the Soviet period, Solomon Yudovin. His exhibition is dedicated to the “Jewish town” (or “Shtetl”).

The real highlight of the Russian Heritage Month festival was the American premiere of the film “Two Women” based on Ivan Turgenev’s play “A Month in the Country” – a great job by the festival’s guest and well-known actress and director, Vera Glagoleva. It was a rarity for modern screens – an exciting story of love, friendship, honor, loyalty, and genuine intelligence. Famous film critic David D’Arcy also took part in the discussion.

******

On June 22, the day that for all people living on the territory of the former Soviet Union is associated with the invasion of the Nazi German troops, a multimedia exhibition entitled “Lives of the Great Patriotic War: The Untold Story of Jewish Soviet Soldiers in the Red Army During WWII” opened in New York, organized by both the Russian American Foundation (RAF) and the Blavatnik Archive Foundation.

WWII veterans Boris Feldman, Anastasia Braverman and Joseph Kruglyak. (Photo by Ross Den Photography via RUNYweb)

WWII veterans Boris Feldman, Anastasia Braverman and Joseph Kruglyak. (Photo by Ross Den Photography via RUNYweb)

The exhibition showcases materials related to the lives of the Jews who fought against fascism in the Soviet Army during the years of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

In one of the galleries of the famous National Arts Club one can read stories, based on first-person evidence, from over a thousand direct participants in the events illustrated by photos and videos, as well as see an extensive collection of documents from the Blavatnik Archives that amount to about ninety thousand different exhibits.

The exhibition tells about the daily lives of the Soviet Jewish soldiers who fought on the Eastern Front and the horrors of war that they had endured.

Here you can see letters, diaries, wartime greeting cards, and personal belongings of representatives of the rapidly passing generation whose adolescence and youth coincided with one of the most tragic moments of the Jewish, in particular, and European history as a whole.

The materials shown reflect not only the personal experiences of the participants of those terrible events, whom there are fewer and fewer of every year, but also the common tragedy of the Holocaust during World War II.

All of these materials have been collected as part of the long-term project of the Blavatnik Archive Foundation, launched in 2006, and based on video recordings of oral evidence of Jewish soldiers who fought in the Soviet Army during the Second World War.

During the reception the organizers of the exhibition and veterans of the Great Patriotic War, living in New York, spoke to the audience.

The Blavatnik Archive Foundation, established in 2005 by famous Russian-American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, is a private nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify, preserve and disseminate materials to promote the study of Jewish history of the 19th and 20th centuries and help enhance understanding of contemporary Jewish identity.

The exhibition is part of the 13th annual Russian Heritage Month and will run until Aug. 30.

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