The Schmooze

Masterworks and Kitsch: Russian Jewish Artists Ill-Served in San Diego

Discerning lovers of Jewish art have until January 17, 2010 to see the exhibit “American Artists from the Russian Empire” which opened in October at the San Diego Museum of Art. They will need to be discerning, because although the exhibit features major works of interest by Ben Shahn, Louise Nevelson and Mark Rothko, greeting–card mediocrity is also displayed.

This peculiarly uneven show is organized by the Foundation for International Arts & Education, a political-business association which backs traveling exhibits of kitschy realist painters and a forthcoming historical show about the father of the current U.S. Ambassador to Russia. The exhibit’s ineptly garbled and often irrelevant catalogue (essays on Hollywood, music, etc.), produced by the State Russian Museum does not mention the word “pogrom” or indicate why artists, Jews and others, were forced to flee Mother Russia. Thus, an innocuous still life and landscape by Abraham Manievich are shown here, instead of his more pointed oil on canvas, “Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev, 1919,” now in the Jewish Museum, from the storerooms of which many works are lent.

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Masterworks and Kitsch: Russian Jewish Artists Ill-Served in San Diego

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