Chagall show is buoyant, charming

October 25, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

New York's Guggenheim Museum established a downtown Manhattan presence earlier this year with the opening of the Guggenheim Museum SoHo at 575 Broadway. As a complement to the show of Russian early 20th-century avant-garde art at its upper 5th Avenue building, Guggenheim SoHo has an exhibit of Marc Chagall's murals for the Moscow Jewish Theater.

In 1920, Chagall executed a set of murals on the theme of the arts for the walls, the ceiling and the curtain of the State Jewish Chamber Theater in Moscow. These include "Introduction to the Jewish Theater," a circus-like panorama in which Chagall himself appears, and four other panels on the themes of music, drama, dance and literature.

When the Jewish Theater moved in 1924, the murals were moved with it, but amid the growing anti-Semitism of the 1930s they were removed and stored under the stage of the theater in 1937. The State Tretiakov Gallery bought them in 1950 (at some point two were lost), but they languished in storage until they were restored in 1990 and sent to a first showing outside the former Soviet Union in Switzerland and Germany.

This is their first showing in the United States, and they are supported here by studies, costume designs and other related works. The latter includes the Guggenheim's "Green Violinist" of 1923-1924, which is closely related to the mural "Music"; its figure of a fiddler at a wedding is one that Chagall used in a number of works over two decades.

This relatively small exhibit provides a welcome contrast to the sprawling, messy, wearying 800-work avant-garde show uptown. The Chagall, by contrast, is lively, charming, well-presented and thoroughly focused. And Chagall's imagery here is particularly fresh and buoyant.

Chagall murals

Where: Guggenheim Museum SoHo, 575 Broadway.

When: Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Tuesdays); Thursdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Through Jan. 17.

Admission: $6, or free pass with $10 admission to Guggenheim Museum uptown.

% Call: (212) 423-3500.

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