El Lissitzky (Smolensk 1890 - Moscow 1941), illustration for Shifs karta [Billet de bateau]
in Shest povestey o lekgkih kontsakh [Six contes sur des fins faciles] of Ilya Ehrenbourg, 1922
© Israel Museum
«The Future Anterior exhibition brings together 210 works by El Lissitzky, Marc Chagall, Joseph Tchaïkov, Issachar Ber Ryback and remarkable but less well-known artists such as Sarah Shor and Mark Epshteyn. They bear testimony to the birth in Russia and Poland of a Jewish avant-garde in the context of the Russian Revolution, the emergence of notions of cultural autonomy and the renaissance of the Yiddish language. The illustrated book was this movement’s main thread. »
We were a band of children at the heder, already detached from Talmudic studies for an entire generation but fed on the leaven of analysis. Having only just taken up pencil and brush, we immediately started dissecting not only the world around us but ourselves. Who were we? What was our place in the concert of nations? What was our culture? And what should our art be? All this was settled in a few towns in Lithuania, Byelorussia and Ukraine.
El Lissitzky, 1923
In ‘Memories of the Mogilev Synagogue’, published in the Berlin review Milgroim in 1923, El Lissitzky recalls the short, intense and seminal period in which a whole generation of young Jews, who had already travelled and studied, embarked on a cultural revolution: the elaboration of a specifically Jewish art reconciling the tradition to which they were returning and the modernity to which they aspired.
Initially rooting themselves in the ethnographic research undertaken in the shtetls and synagogues of Ukraine and drawing inspiration from Yiddish and Hebraic literature and theatre, then in full renaissance, and ideas of cultural autonomy, they appropriated the motifs of Jewish popular art and rediscovered the formal richness of the Hebraic alphabet.
The Future Anterior exhibition explores the emergence of an avant-garde whose prime expression was the Yiddish book. It retraces the artistic paths of the movement’s principal actors and marks out the individual courses that began in this movement of Jewish renaissance, for some towards Suprematism and Constructivism, for others towards Social Realism. It also evokes the vice-like grip which gradually asphyxiated the passions of this period and the tragic end of Yiddish culture, initially encouraged by the Soviet regime, then controlled, orchestrated and finally annihilated.
Exhibition's curators : Nathalie Hazan-Brunet and Hillel Kazovsky with Dorota Sniezek
Download the errata of the catogue of Future Anterior. The avant-garde and the Yiddish book exhibition
© Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme