|Pravda / Zoya Cherkassky|
This exhibition presents Zoya Cherkassky's Realist paintings, focusing on the massive Russian immigration of the 1990s and the frictions between the new immigrants and Israeli society. The works –oils and works on paper from 2009 until today – deal with the artist's personal recollections (she arrived in Israel from Kiev, Ukraine, in 1991, aged fourteen) and the collective experience of the Russian immigrants who came during that period. With her trademark acerbic humor and caricaturesque style she depicts the trials of absorption, the charged encounters with Israelis, and the stereotypes that govern everybody's thoughts. Is the immigrants' new national home better than the one they left behind? Zoya's works shatter all our myths: both Zionism and Communism failed to keep their promise of a better world.
The one-million strong immigration, beginning in the early 1990s, was primarily motivated by economic considerations triggered by the chaos that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The challenges faced by the new immigrants included fighting for their Jewish identity (especially vis a vis the religious establishment) and struggling with entrenched Zionist and Israeli ideals. Some experienced alienation or even humiliation, and as a result – or independently – developed a patronizing approach towards the local population and its culture. The works shown here reflect a range of issues the immigrants had to contend with in trying to integrate: learning Hebrew, meeting kashrut standards, undergoing circumcision at an advanced age, and more. Several of the works tackle some of the bluntest Israeli and Russian stereotypes, such as that of the Russian prostitute or the Mizrahi thug. Others express a longing for the last days of the communist era and are steeped in nostalgia while retaining a clear and perspicuous vision of reality.
Pravda ("truth" in Russian) was the name of the Communist party's official newspaper in the former Soviet Union. Rather than reporting the truth, however, Pravda served to disseminate the party's lies about reality and its idyllic representation of what were harsh and miserable times. Zoya's art aims to do the exact opposite: speak the truth – the complex, funny, poignant truth – about the people who formed the greatest wave of immigration ever to reach this land.
Curator: Dr. Amitai Mendelsohn
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