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Yefim Rudminsky: A Ukrainian Jewish Heart

Art exhibit, reception is Nov. 10 

Ukrain art image
Natalia Kogan, who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, is curating the exhibit of rarely-seen work by the late Yefim Rudminsky, a Ukrainian Jewish artist. Yefim Rudminsky (1991) The Mother, Cardboard, oil, 27.5-by-19-inch painting

When it comes to understanding the former Soviet Union, and the Jewish experience there, art provides a unique window. One area Jewish woman-a Soviet immigrant-wants to open this window to the community.

Natalia Kogan, of Niles, is curating an exhibition of rarely-seen works by the late Ukrainian Jewish artist Yefim Rudminsky. The public will have the opportunity to view approximately 20 of Rudminsky's paintings, many reflecting Jewish themes, at Signature of Art, 715 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, on Sunday, Nov. 10, from 4 to 6 p.m. A reception is also scheduled and admission for both is free.

"Rudminsky's art is unique in the context of social realist art. It goes beyond it," Kogan said. During Rudminsky's time, socialist realism was the Soviet Union's official art form found throughout the fine arts, including music and literature.

"His representation of people's experience has a character of its own. He paid a lot of attention to the uniqueness of the person," Kogan said. "The colors are rich. Looking at his paintings is like experiencing poetry, with many levels of meaning."

Rudminsky's portraits, landscapes, Judaic imagery and more is an emotional representation of the 20th Century Soviet Jewish experience.

"It's quietly expressive. You can look at it for a long time and find new and interesting things," she said.

Rudminsky (1937-1994) was born in a poor Jewish district of Kiev, Ukraine, just before World War II. When Nazis began killing Jews, he and his mother were evacuated to a small village near Stalingrad with his mother's sisters and their children. His father was killed in the war.

"Hunger and cold is what I particularly remember," Rudminsky wrote in his autobiography.

He became known as an architect after graduating in 1962 with a major in Architecture and a minor in Fine Art from Kiev Art University. However, his prolific work as an artist was relatively unknown prior to his death from a heart attack at age 57. During his life, Rudminsky produced hundreds of sketches, paintings and postcards, using different genres, styles and techniques. For him, art was a "constant throughout time, a steady stream through past, present and future."

Kogan has her own connection to the Soviet culture. She was born in the Crimea, Ukraine, where she lived for 10 years until her family moved to Moscow, Russia. They lived in Russia for two years until they moved to Chicago when Kogan was 12.

Kogan's appreciation for art is largely due to the influence of her cousin, Tanya Ilina, an art historian. "She often took me to the Art Institute and showed me the paintings," Kogan said.

"Art adds another layer to our lives," Kogan said. "You can look at the world from a different point of view once you encounter art."

Kogan is curating the exhibit as a Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) Russian Jewish Division Tikkun Fellowship project. A graduate of the University of Chicago, she organizes "Art" on Thursday Evenings, a weekly art history social event for young adults. She is proud of her Jewish artistic heritage, and the grant she received is helping her bring the art of an extraordinary Jewish painter to Chicago's Jewish community.

Sponsors of the event include JUF's Russian Jewish Division, in conjunction with Signature of Art Gallery and Genesis Philanthropy Group.

An additional exhibition of Rudminsky's work will be on display from Nov. 4-16 at Richard J. Daley Center, 50 W Washington Street, Chicago.

For information, visit

To view artworks, visit

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