Lot 13
  • 13

Grisha Bruskin, b. 1945

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
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  • Grisha Bruskin
  • Old Testament
  • signed in Cyrillic l.r.

  • oil on canvas
  • 66 by 78½cm., 26 by 31in.


Hapsburg, Feldman, Inc., New York, Soviet Contemporary Art: The Property of the Kniga Collection, Paris, 5 May 1990, Lot 6

Purchased at the Connaught Brown Gallery by the previous owner
Acquired by the present owner from above


Catalogue Note

The two central themes in the work of Jewish-Russian artist Grisha Bruskin are the myths of Judaism and Communism. His oeuvre epitomises precisely the nonconformist artist’s search for an alternative reality through which they can affirm their individual identity. Bruskin himself acknowledges that ''the majority of my generation sought positive ideas: in Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, art or political dissidence''. Nevertheless, as a product of the Soviet system against which they rebelled, Bruskin like many artists of his day, lived parallel lives: on the one hand locked within this system, but at the same time trapped outside it. (Michael Scammel in A.Rosenfeld and N. Dodge (Eds.) From Gulag to Glasnost: Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995)

The quest for individualism led Bruskin to reject established approaches to art, such as Realism and Cezannism, early on in his artistic development. Specifically, he believed that drawing according to a set of principles other than your own implied you were seeing the world through the eyes of somebody else.

The offered lot executed in 1986 forms part of a series of compositions entitled Alefbet, meaning alphabet in Hebrew, which was inspired by Bruskin's private study of the Kabala. Early versions such as this particular work depict small groups of traditionally robed figures, each equipped with an attribute and set against a background of hand-written Hebrew texts. Mostly illegible, and in certain instances crossed out as if this were a rough draft for private use, it is not intended to be read as explanation of the images, but to work in conjunction with them. The figures do not relate to each other, united only by their context. However, put together, they generate a powerful mechanism, underlining their function as part of a vocabulary, fragments to be pieced together by the viewer who is then free to make his own individual reading.

Bruskin has explained that, ''The basic idea is to make art as a text. I make these pieces not as religious icons, but making them I continue creating myths about Judaism.'' Above all else, Alefbet is a purely artistic concept: ''I always sensed a certain cultural vacuum [in Judaism], which I wanted to fill in an individual and imaginative way''.