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Books: The anti-Chagall offers a field guide to the shtetl

URL: http://www.jewishjournal.com/arts/article/books_the_antichagall_offers_a_field_guide_to_the_shtetl_20071109

Kirshenblatt's canvasses, together with a stunningly vivid text -- the product of four decades' worth of interviews with his daughter, noted New York University folklorist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett -- have now been reproduced in a handsome volume by the University of California Press, and the result is a marvel: With his scrupulously recalled images, Kirshenblatt has managed to do no less than create a new visual language for describing pre-war Eastern European life. In stark contrast to the black-and-white record that has made up our vision heretofore, Kirshenblatt's paintings are untainted by the horrors to come. They offer a picture not of Polish Jewish life as it was before tragedy struck, but simply as it was. If Chagall was the shtetl's mythmaker, then Kirshenblatt is his antithesis: a shtetl anthropologist.

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