Biography of Alexander Aizenshtat
Alexander Aizenshtat (b. 1951) spent his childhood and youth in Moscow of the 1950s and 60s, a period perhaps best captured in the poems of the Sixtiers. The future artist studied in the workshop of Sergei Skulsky, a student and follower of Robert Falk (one of the founding members of the Knave of Diamonds association). If Aizenshtat gained knowledge about the Russian avant-garde from his mentor, then he became acquainted with the work of the Old Masters and early Modernists on his own in the halls of the Pushkin State Museum where, as the painter later recalled, he was particularly impressed by Rembrandt’s subdued colors, van Gogh’s pulsating surfaces, and Picasso’s innovative forms.
In 1974, following a religious awakening at the age of sixteen, he emigrated to the sacred city of Safed in Israel to continue his path of spiritual development. Inspired by his new surroundings, he created his first masterpieces as he continued his artistic searches despite a lack of proper conditions and misunderstandings on the part of local gallery owners. After serving in the Israeli army, the young man began to study Torah in the Jerusalem yeshiva and eventually decided to devote himself completely to Judaism.
When Aizenshtat returned to painting years later he was already an established religious figure. Today, his artworks, based on a unique creative method inspired by his religious experiences, are highly regarded by scholars and critics and exhibited in major museums and galleries around the world.
In the Jewish tradition, great importance is given to writing since Judaism, although it does not fight with pictorialism, denies idolatry. In this vein, Aizenshtat’s works, while filled with meaningful and eloquent images, are best understood as visual texts. All are united by a common theme, which the painter identifies as “the interaction of Man and the World”, where the World is understood as a field of activity both in the narrow everyday and global-cosmic sense. The master reflects on timeless issues such as the tragic course of life, the individual among the crowd, and the constancy and variability of our surrounding reality, which, with the help of the expressive means of painting, he imbues with spiritual and moral values. It is no coincidence that scholars of Aizenshtat often compare his works to parables as both are concise yet inexhaustible sources of knowledge about the universe.
The utopian vision of achieving a universal language, either by combining existing elements or inventing new ones, is a theme common to all cultures of the world since time immemorial. In search of such a language, Alexander Aizenshtat has created his own: one filled with the sights and sounds, song, and dance of all people of the world, which merges the totality of Being into a single indivisible, divinely illuminated Whole.
As a rabbi, Aizenshtat attends to all facets of human existence – from the most mundane details of everyday life to the trials of global catastrophes such as those of recent times – with the same level of reverence. And much like a prism containing the full spectrum of color, behind all the rich variety of this shared experience we call “life” lies a mysterious, unnameable and ever-present Source that serves as the pillar of his faith.
As an artist, Aizenshtat views each stroke of his pen or brush not merely from a technical standpoint, but also as a means of communication, as a way of tapping into and conveying a deeper, symbolic meaning to the viewer. And while we cannot help but marvel at the endlessly refined technique, the chaotic and ornate lines that bring Aizenshtat’s imagery to life before our eyes, we must not lose sight of the fact that such devices are subservient to the underlying idea of each work.
The key to understanding Aizenshtat’s language lies not in any ready-made artistic formulas, not in any of the various “-isms” of Art-Historical discourses, but simply in our shared experiences, our common humanity. Regardless of one’s place of birth, native tongue, social standing, or individual circumstances, Aizenshtat manages to speak to and for us all.
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