Boris Aronson and the Avant-garde Yiddish Theatre Kiev entertain the Ben Uri Gallery

By Culture24 Reporter | 25 April 2013

Exhibition preview: Boris Aronson and the Avant-garde Yiddish Theatre Kiev 1917  ̶  New York 1929, Ben Uri Museum and Gallery, London, until June 20 2013

An image of a black and white illustration of various theatrical figures
Boris Aronson, Book Illustration for cover (1920)© Courtesy Ben Uri
A graduate of Kiev Art School who was born the son of the Rabbi of Kiev, Boris Aronson’s schooling in modernist drawing flourished in the Yiddish Theatres of New York between 1924 and 1929, a springboard which saw him win eight Tony Awards for theatre designs on Broadway.

So it’s unsurprising that an internationally-flavoured exhibition, dedicated to his avant-garde costume and theatre creations, should have originally been thought up by the Galerie Le Minotaure, which is based in Paris and Tel Aviv.

They’ve brought together more than 50 rare, original and little-known works on paper by Aronson, contextualised by a more modest number made by his peers and a range of books and photographs.

Aronson’s style is defined by a bold combination of Cubo-Futurism and Constrctivism, telling tales of an artistic journey from the Ukraine to Moscow, Berlin, Paris and New York during a time of war and revolution.

He published one of the first manifestos of progressive Jewish art – Paths of Jewish Painting, in which one of his peers, Marc Chagall, was mentioned – and helped the Moscow Jewish Chamber on productions including Romeo and Juliet.

His move to Berlin, where he joined his family, saw Aronson study in the workshop of the engraver Hermann Struck, contributing xylograph woodcuts to the First Russian Art Exhibition .

But the place where he lived the longest – New York, where he moved in 1923, and remained until his death 57 years later – saw him apply his vision most dramatically, becoming the lead designer for the city’s Jewish theatres, from the experimental Unser Theatre, in the Bronx, to the Yiddish Art Theatre.

His sets embraced movement, an abiding mood and beauty. In this show, those arresting set and costume designs range from The Tragedy of Nothing, from 1927, to the 1929 depictions of The Golem and The Fiddler.

  • Open 10am-5.30pm (1pm-5.30pm Monday, 12pm-4pm Sunday, closed Saturday and May 15-16). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @BenUriGallery.

More pictures:

An image of a colourful painted design of a bird-human like theatrical performer
10th Commandment costume design (1926)© Courtesy Ben Uri
Miscellaneous, Married Couple (1920)
An image of a painting of a theatrical figure reaching to the sky with both arms
Miscellaneous, Man with Talit (1920)© Courtesy Ben Uri
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