Mikhail Gendelev

Jerusalem July 2004

In the Spring of 2004, several rooms of the Israel Museum, the country's main artistic platform, were used by an exhibition - a retrospective, selective, fundamental and simply tremendous exhibition of works by Jan Rauchwerger.

To say that I was overwhelmed is to say nothing.

Of course, I knew Jan, I had known him for more than a decade, I had seen his paintings, I had known for certain that Jan Rauchwerger was a brilliant artist, inventive, technically and technologically perfect, civilized, very much in demand...

That is to say, he had received enough laudatory epithets for a comfortable existence as an artist in life, for his persona - in the art world, and for his name - in critical reviews; assets for a clever modern artist to live on during his lifetime and with some to spere for his heirs.

All these words-epithets both mean something in general, direct, literal sense and, sometimes, even correspond to the object of enthusiasm in a figurative, approximate sense.

In a word, a strong master, contemporary to me, to us, to the culture of our state, to the phase in the history of art. A contemporary artist. Which means modern, but not in the sense given the word "modern" in soviet and postsoviet times, when it was assumed that only modern art is provided with the necessary avanguardist and postmodernist apparatus which distinguishes it from the "non-modern" - archaic or technologically obsolete. This interpretation has brought about a mix-up of notions, while in our understaanding the modern art is no more than the art accompanying our time, the art that coexists with our life. Thus, the expression "contemporary art" is absent from Russian usage: the word, but not the notion. There is a vital need to, so to speak, de- symbolize the concept of modern artist; otherwise there is no understanding of the phenomenon called the modern artist Jan Rauchwerger. Our modern artist.

So then, to repeat, I was shaken by Jan Rauchwerger's Jerusalem exhibition. Not by the combined and honest representation of the whole abovementioned set of characteristics and qualities of art, in this case, of a modern Israeli artist whose coloring is - "outstanding", culture - "excellent", taste, color, composition - "flawless" - but!

... but - I was struck by the sharp change in the calibre. By the switch of focus - by a new class of statement, a new level of the act. By the enlargement of the of scale of the whole corpus of his works - singly, and as a body, as a totality of this whole monographic exposure. This was not a collection as an exhibition; not an exhibition as an exhibition; but a great artist himself - as an exhibition!

Yes, it was just here, in the space of the display, at theexhibition to the overwhelming effect of the whole composition - no! Here, the polyphonic effect has been set in beforehand and predetermined from above, by the range and the quality of the talent realized in his artistic activity. Accompanied, of course, by an exceptional refinement of technical means and solutions (one cannot do without), and by the God-given inspiration of his works (again, one cannot do without that).

There follow from it two, possibly too superficial, considerations, or rather two barely motivated conclusions, and not even conclusions but suggestions, since these considerations follow the impression rather than form it.

Firstly, the very existence of Jan Rauchwerger in art, to be precise, in modern art, and to be even more precise, in contemporary art allows us, or rather makes us: either doubt whether the status-notion of an artist belonging to his time is authentic and necessary or, if this is so, whether the status and the hierarchy of modern art should not be revised under a new and different light, granted the live and tangible - here he is! - presence in art of the persona of Jan Rauchwerger1 stature.

I shall simplify - if Jan Rauchwerger's work is not "modern art", Jan will dispense with the latter and somehow manage by himself; if, however this is modern art itself, then, with Jan's (and others' if there are such to be found) presence in it, the Art can peacefully dispense with the adjective.

And - secondly. For some reason, our state, I mean the great Israel "from sea to sea" where we swim in rivers of milk and honey, this our small and hardly first-rate state, in a sense of producing masterpieces of worldwide importance (at least for the last couple of thousand years) - for some reason this our state and this our art of this our state did not until now present to the admiring world an artist of the scale both in talent and the ultimate perfection of execution - like Jan.

And the fact that it did happen, makes my heart, quite experienced and not too inclined to admiration, to beat in a rhythm smacking of something national-patriotic, even of Zionist tympanis and tambourines. With a feeling of a certain national pride. With pride for a contemporary and a compatriot. For the very fact of existence and the miracle of existence of such a compatriot. In our great artistic country of milk and honey.

And I would be happy if they could share my enthusiasm in Russia, in Jan's biological, so to speak, native land where he was born and learned, where lay the graves of both his ancestors and of his great teacher, the Moscow artist Vladimir Weisberg.

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