Early Modernism

If you want to see an amazing and inspiring exhibit, head up to the Jewish Museum for Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater 1919-1949. From their website:

In the new-found artistic freedom of the years following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Jewish theaters such as Habima and the Moscow State Yiddish Theater (acronym, GOSET) became a catalyst for modernist experimentation, revolutionizing existing concepts of theater and scene design. Habima performed in Hebrew and its productions of Jewish mythical and folkloric plays were noted for their rich visual effects and their emotional intensity. GOSET, which performed in Yiddish, created daring productions of Yiddish dramas that enthralled audiences with a new expressionistic style of acting. Both groups embraced visual artists who created stage and costume designs combining Russian folk art elements with stylistic vocabularies of cubo-futurism and constructivism. This unusual combination of populist and high art sensibilities became extremely popular, attracting large audiences of both Jews and non-Jews and garnering international critical praise.

It is a peek into a fascinating moment in world history and art, the intersection of tradition and futurism, of looking to the past to envision the future… even though we know how it ended, the work is still striking in its audacity and experimentation. Plus, the art on display is in great shape; from what I understand some of it was only recently discovered and has never before been outside of Russia.

[update: read the review in the NY TIMES]

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