From the Eastern Bloc to the Bronx tells the fascinating story of how the Grosvenor Gallery in London promoted artists from Eastern Bloc countries and came to play a central role in shaping the Hebrew Home Art Collection. Some of the first works acquired for The Art Collection were by artists who were included in solo and group exhibitions at the Gallery, which was founded in 1960 by the American sociologist Eric Estorick (1913–1993). Estorick was instrumental in efforts by the Hebrew Home’s former executive director Jacob Reingold (1916–1999), with the support of a few key donors, to establish The Art Collection in the 1970s. His gallery created a niche for the exhibition of Eastern Bloc artists in the 1960s when art from “behind the Iron Curtain” was largely unseen and unknown by Western audiences. Living and working during the height of the Cold War in the Soviet Socialist Republics of Armenia and Russia and satellite states Hungary and Czechoslovakia (today the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic), most of these artists were rarely, if ever, exhibited in the West.
This exhibition features works by 35 artists who participated in nine key exhibitions that took place at Grosvenor Gallery between 1961–1967, before the Hebrew Home began to acquire the artwork about a decade later. Today, some of these artists have well established reputations internationally or in their home countries, or both. For example, Soviet dissident artist Oscar Rabin (1928–2018), founder of the Nonconformist movement and exiled to Paris in 1978, has been the subject of several major exhibitions and a documentary film; eminent Slovak artist Vincent Hložník (1919–1997), founder of the highly influential Department of Graphic Art and Illustration at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, will have a major retrospective at the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, in 2020; and the work of Mariam Aslamazian (1907–2006) is on permanent view at a museum in Gyumri, Armenia, dedicated to the artist and her sister.
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