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Tales, Myths, and Nightmares

Tales, Myths, and Nightmares

December 10, 2012 to December 18, 2012
10th-floor Gallery

In Tales, Myths, and Nightmares, Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern introduced a cast of characters he called “irreducible,” like the spare style and primary colors he uses to set his scenes. His paintings personify fragile survivors who represent the struggle and strength of the Jewish experience.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern was born in Kiev, then USSR, to an assimilated Jewish family. He has never been formally educated as an artist, but spent a year studying under Ukrainian satirist David Miretsky. Following Miretsky’s arrest and then immigration to the United States, Petrovsky-Shtern turned for inspiration to the Russian icon-painting of Andrei Rublev, Ukrainian naïve art of Maria Prymachenko, Japanese xylography of Utagawa Hiroshige, and Flemish genre painting of Pieter Bruegel. Unlike the outlawed paintings of Marc Chagall, works by these artists were on display at Soviet museums or available in reproduction.

In 1996, Petrovsky-Shtern came to the U.S. to study Jewish history at Brandeis University. In 2003, he joined the History Department faculty at Northwestern University, where he currently serves as the Crown Family Professor of Jewish Studies. He is recipient of the 2008 Northwestern University Distinguished Teaching Award and the 2011 American Association of Ukrainian Studies Book Award. In addition to his role at Northwestern, he teaches and lectures at institutions around the world, including Spertus. He is the author of Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917: Drafted into Modernity, The Anti-Imperial Choice: the Making of the Ukrainian Jew, and Lenin’s Jewish Question.

Aided by his wife, Oxana Hanna Petrovsky, who bought him canvases and paints, he recently resumed his artistic endeavors through the lens of his role as a historian of the Jewish people.

Image at left

Exodus (detail), Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, 2012, Acrylic on Canvas,
24 x 24 inches