Message 1. Grisha Bruskin, 1989-1990.
Oil on linen
Grisha Bruskin (1945-) is a Russian-American artist deeply engaged with the mythologies of Judaism and Communism. During the 1970s and 80s, he was an underground artist in the former Soviet Union. Despite prohibitions against Jewish study and without a formal religious education, Bruskin learned Hebrew, Talmud, and Kabbalah as a means of psychic escape. He immigrated to the United States in 1988 and currently lives in New York City.
Adam Kadmon. Grisha Bruskin, 1980.
Ink and gouache on paper
In the Alefbet (1984) and Alefbet-Lexicon (1987) painting series, Bruskin uses a Hasidic text as background. Uniform figures wearing religious dress (prayer shawls, yarmulkes, tfillin) indicate holiness and faith in God. Each figure possesses an accessory or attribute such as a pair of wings, a lightning bolt, a cluster of grapes, etc.. All of the types make up a collection of mythic characters or symbols. Bruskin intended that the work be used for prolonged meditation and study.
Bruskin makes the following statements about the work:
Alefbet 6. Grisha Bruskin, 1984.
Oil on canvas
“…I always understood the idea of the Alefbet series as a purely artistic concept, a work of art, a kind of 'game of beads.' Using a Kabbalistic metaphor, I could say that every element of the painting—each character plus his accessory—is a tiny fragment, a spark of Light (shekhina). The viewer, moving from one mythologem to the next and deciphering them, restores the shattered fragments of the vessels (kelim) and recovers the content of the painting.” (Heartney, 117)
Alefbet-Lexicon I. Grisha Bruskin, 1987.
Oil on canvas
“One can compare the image system of Alefbet to a clockwork, whose parts are sign-images. A single image is a single part; a multiplicity of them, put together and wound up, sets the ‘mechanism’ in motion, makes it ‘work.’ It’s as though the images have been charged with energy, which penetrates or ‘electrifies’ the space of the canvas, making it active or ‘magical.’ The viewer initially comes into contact with an ‘active field,’ the ‘climate’ of the space. Alefbet is a system of meanings, close to the mind and spirit of Judaism, an expression of love for the ever-present God. It is a kind of imperative for both the artist and the viewer: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One.’ On the other hand, Alefbet sets up a metasystem of ‘ideal’ meanings with their own logic, their own laws and their own internal play, all belonging only to this single artistic system and maintaining their force exclusively in the space of this work. The text of these canvases is an image no less than the figure and the accessory. The text does not explain the image, nor is the image an illustration of the text. The writing is extremely difficult or impossible to read. The link between word and image is very indirect. The text is just a sign of a fundamental knowledge about the world. At the same time, it is written carelessly, with cross-outs. It is like a facsimile of someone’s notes. In a certain sense the entire structure of the work has a similar private character.” (Heartney, 121)
Heartney, Eleanor, et al. Grisha Bruskin: Life is Everywhere. Napoli: Palace Editions, 2001.
All items in DSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved.