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Literature and theatre, Jewish plots and intonations, humor and vitality, the maritime theme with the port and the beach in the general cultural landscape are undergoing changes, but this is precisely the criterion of a living tradition, full-fledged, deep. Analog black and white photographs by Ilya Gershberg have taken their rightful place in this flow of time and transformation.
Pay attention to the depth of the frame, which is typical for Gershberg: how far the perspective goes, how much detail you see in the second, third, etc. plans (the same depth), what exactly grabs the eye of the photographer as an event? What is his energy? How do light and shadow work? Photography is not only ephemeral memories and atmosphere, it is a very specific image made in a certain technology. Let's warn vintage connoisseurs right away: Gershberg's photographs are scanned from original negatives, which are stored in his family archive, and he shot with a Zenith camera.
Ilya Gershberg began his creative life in the city club «Odessa» (and was one of its founders). The post-war twenty years were the heyday of club photography in many republics: the Belarusian People's Photo Club “Minsk” turned out to be a long-liver. (founded in 1960), the Lithuanian school of photography (1969) has always been highly rated, and in Ukraine itself – famous Kharkov school (1971). Underground, uncensored, informal photography opened up entire layers of life that had not been shown before, – Scientific studies have been written about this, but at the exhibition we see only one of many pages: Odessa charm, the maximum approximation of a photographic document to reality and poetry at the same time.
It turned out that Soviet citizens have a private life, there are urban spaces where people are comfortable and do not need to be controlled. And what is important – there is art that is interested in all this, which can show the life of an ordinary person. With respect, without pathos, but with compassion.
The connection of black-and-white photography with fragments of the film “Goodbye, Boys” is logical and justified in the exposition. (1964) directed by Mikhail Kalik. The film was shot in Evpatoria and Odessa, and was recognizable – on the one hand, as an urban environment and mise-en-scene, and on the other – as understandable to contemporaries the expectation of change, the hope for a better future. And the tragedy of the war, which was still breathing, sounded, was perceived not as history, but as reality. The script of the film was written by Mikhail Kalik together with the front-line writer Boris Isaakovich Balter, who reworked his earlier prose “Three from the same city”, and the title of the story “Goodbye, boys” (1962) heard in the song of an old friend Bulat Okudzhava. However, the history of the creation of this amazing film, a real cinematic revelation of the “Thaw”, is not our topic now. One cannot but mention the camera work of Levan Paatashvili and the music of Mikael Tariverdiev – both in time and spirit, their common work echoes the ideas of Italian neo-realism (1945 & ndash; 1955).
And stylistically they also echo Gershberg's photographs – there is a cinematic element to his photographs.
By the way, Antonioni and Visconti were engaged not only in fiction, but also in documentary films, so the kinship between film and photographic languages is manifested here too. And even though this wave did not reach Eastern Europe immediately, even though the almost complete lack of information about contemporary world art was reduced to the isolation of artists, there were and are ideas that are in the air…
The more interesting is the inclusion of contemporary tapestries by Sasha Stoyanova in the Odessa concept. In the creative biography of Stoyanova – several significant, personal and collective museum exhibitions: in New York and Chicago, at the Museum of Russian Art in Ramat Gan (“On Chairs, Tables and Other Creatures”, 2009), at the “Open Museum”; in Tefen (December 2012 – January 2013), in the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv (“Weaved into Consciousness”, 2014). The current Ramat Gan exhibition includes two works: “Prayer”; (2008) and from the series “Waiting” (2016 & ndash; 2017) created in Israel.
Sasha Stoyanova – a theater-trained artist who is passionate about photography and was friends with the Gershberg family, works on tapestries. Her author's style and experience are evident. Complex images, conceptuality – like one side of the coin. And the other – it's textile! It always attracts and simply pleases the eye with its tactility, special hand warmth, and sense of volume. At a minimum, Stoyanova makes us think about how relevant traditional, even routine material can be if a contemporary artist works with it. And why did time have no power over him? This is first. And secondly, what is paradoxical, how does such a tangible thing/object/object create such a high degree of generalization? On the canvases are quite earthly, understandable figures: empty chairs, a fluffy sheep, a traditional family portrait. It would seem, what could be easier? But!
“The feeling of truth on the screen”, which is spoken of in the context of neorealism, resonates here too: the viewer understands/feels that there is factual truth, and there is artistic truth. True fiction, imagination. And it is not yet known which of them is more realistic. Stoyanova fills the tapestry with sublime, not at all everyday meaning. The monumentality of her works (3, 5, even 8 meters) and the laconism of her compositions have become her recognizable visual language. To a certain extent, asceticism helps to create a metaphor, there really is nothing superfluous in the canvases. As a result, very simple things and portraits not only return the viewer to their own memories, but also lead to many interpretations, illusions, and fantasies. Perhaps to literary, philosophical or
historical analogies, perhaps to mental delights or some Odessa stories, since we are all diving into this topic together.
It is customary to talk about meditative art when the artist persistently, for a long time and independently deals with each of his work and methodically brings it to the result. This is also the truth about Stoyanova: all these years in Israel she has been doing just that. He is proficient in all the skills of yarn processing and weaving, freely subordinating them to art.
Finally, a necessary clarification. Exhibition “Odessa. time and meaning. Ilya Gershberg. Sasha Stoyanova. Mikhail Kalik» takes place at the Museum of Russian Art, no matter how strange it may sound now. This city museum is named after patrons Maria and Mikhail Tsetlin, who donated their private collection of works by Russian artists to the Museum in Ramat Gan. Among them are Valentin Serov, Leon Bakst, Alexander Benois, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Pyotr Konchalovsky and others.
Based on the collection of Maria Samoilovna and Mikhail Osipovich, the museum was opened in 1996, and now – in 2022 – dedicates an exhibition to the Ukrainian city of Odessa. The idea of the project was born after the outbreak of hostilities, and with this exhibition the museum expresses its unequivocal position in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its solidarity with Ukraine.
Exhibition «Odessa. time and meaning. Ilya Gershberg. Mikhail Kalik. Sasha Stoyanova» will open December 1st. The exhibition will run until April 1, 2023.
Exhibition curator – Lesya Voiskun
Museum opening hours:
Tuesdays and Wednesdays – from 12:00 to 18:00; on Thursdays – from 12:00 to 20:00; Fridays – from 9:00 to 13:00; on Saturdays – from 10:00 to 15:00. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Museum address: st. Hibat Zion, 18, Ramat Gan. Tel.:03-6188243
Photos of works by Sasha Stoyanova – © Leonid Padrul
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