Too-small photo exhibit catches immigrants' strengths

March 03, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Since the late 1970s, more than 7,000 Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union have come to Baltimore to live. For the last two years, photographer Cindy Gail Konits has been photographing recent immigrants in their daily lives. The results can be seen in "Now I See Kiev in My Dreams" at the Jewish Historical Society.

The exhibit has faults, primarily its limited size. But its virtues are many, including its overall look. It combines Konits' large-scale (28 inches square) color photographs with quotes from the immigrants (in both English and Russian) and with small black and white photographs showing them in their homelands in former years.

Artists Paul Daniel and Linda De Palma have created an attractive design, incorporating the quotes on black and white labels, and the old photographs on black panels.

Konits' richly colored photographs capture their subjects informally in various activities -- arriving at the airport, sharing a meal, playing chess, at their jobs, relaxing. There's a straightforward look about these people that makes you feel as if you could sit down among them and be at home. And their spirit shines through Konits' pictures; their faces tell us they're undaunted.

This is all testament to Konits' accomplishments with her camera. But it makes the viewer want more than what is available here. Twenty-two of Konits' photographs are too few; and the accompanying quotes don't add up to as much as one hopes.

Furthermore, almost no one is identified in any of these pictures, and no connections are drawn between the new photographs and the old ones. We are left to our own devices in trying to discover how the people in the images relate to each other.

In short, the show should have been better labeled and it should have been larger. The Jewish Historical Society's exhibition space, which is limited anyway, has been divided between this exhibit and an abridged version of its core exhibit, "Fertile Ground: Two Hundred Years of Jewish Life in Baltimore." Better to have devoted the whole space to "Kiev," if Konits has sufficient photographs; or, if she doesn't, to wait until she does.

Nevertheless, the show is worth seeing. Despite its flaws, one does get some sense of the will and the spirit of the people it depicts.

ART REVIEW

What: "Now I See Kiev in My Dreams: Words and Pictures of New Americans"

Where: Jewish Heritage Center of the Jewish Historical Society, 15 Lloyd St.

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays through Thursdays, through Aug. 7

Admission: $2 adults 16 and over

Call: (410) 732-6400

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