Faces of Babi Yar

Faces of Babi Yar in Felix Lembersky's Art: Presence and Absence

Two of Russian Jewish artist Felix Lembersky's (1913-1970) rarely seen Babi Yar paintings were on display at the Rose Art Museum on March 10. The paintings depict the single largest mass murder of Ukranian Jews, on 29-30 September 1941. The paintings were composed at the height of Stalin's campaigns against Jewish culture in 1952.

Babi Yar

The art installation also featured later works of oppressed miners which embody the rich symbolism of his Babi Yar paintings.  In the late 1950s, Lembersky moved away from socialist realism to non-conformist forms of art, increasingly returning to his childhood town of Berdichev (where his parents perished at the hands of the Nazis) and employing Jewish symbols and imagery. The artist sought to "awaken the consciousness" by offering art as a puzzle, a window to discovery. In Lembersky's own words: "In my art, I would like to reflect not so much on the visible beauty of objects, but to express my feeling and admiration for them. I attempt to find the hidden spirituality in nature, and treat the object as a metaphor."

Nera Lerner ’12, a Brandeis-Genesis Institute fellow and double Economics and Russian Studies major with an Art History minor, curated and organized the event for her Brandeis-Genesis Institute community project. The program also included a talk by Lembersky's granddaughter, the architect Yelena Lembersky, and a discussion of Soviet Jewry by two leading historians on the subject, Professor ChaeRan Freeze from the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Olga Litvak.

Presented by the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry, with support from the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry, the Martin Weiner Funds, the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, the Uniterra Foundation, and the Lembersky family.  A special thank you to Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum.

Lembersky Event Group Photo

BGI Fellows and BGI Leadership left to right: Annie Livit '13, Julia Livit '13, Eli Tukachinsky '11, BGI Executive Director Victor Vitkin, President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz, Nera Lerner '12, Julia Rabkin '11, Associate Vice President for Global Affairs Dan Terris, Dina Kapengut '14, Karina Gaft '14, Lev Gorfinkel '13, Victor Zhivich '13, Esther Tandetnik '13 and Julian Olidort '11.