At last, wait is finally over for lovers of Chagall

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At last, wait is finally over for lovers of Chagall

After a 10-year wait, another Chagall exhibit, 19 paintings and one tapestry, has come to Korea.
Vivid and imaginative, the paintings of Marc Chagall’s on display at Sun Gallery in Insa-dong, Seoul, cannot be boxed into a particular genre. They are not easily defined. Chagall himself (1887-1985) did not want his art to be analyzed. Many of his works are based on memories of his childhood in the shtetl of Vitebsk, Russia, and of his formative years as an artist in Paris. He also drew much inspiration from his marriage to his beloved first wife, Bella.
Koreans hold Chagall in high esteem. A local art magazine ranked him the fourth most popular artist, and a handful of cafes around Seoul are named “Chagall’s Snowing Village,” after a piece by the famous poet Kim Chun-su.
Kim Chang-shil, owner of Sun Gallery, is one such admirer. After viewing two of his murals at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1987, Ms. Kim said she longed to bring his artwork to Korea.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” she said about the show coming to her gallery. The exhibition offers a concise introduction to an easy-to-appreciate artist, whom Picasso, likening him to Matisse, called a master of color.
The exhibition reflects many of Chagall’s recurring themes, such as animals, circus performers, lovers and Biblical characters. All lend themselves to different interpretations ― which is part of the fun.
One of the works, “Couple and Bouquet in the Sky,” shows a man hovering above a voluptuous woman. Could they be Chagall and Bella, who died in 1944?
Bouquet symbolizes a “paradise-like life,” said the curator, Lee Jae-eon. It was painted long after Chagall had settled comfortably in southern France after escaping to the United States during World War II. Below the couple, a street scene reminiscent of Vitebsk unfolds at dawn, one of the many occasions his hometown appears in his work.
Many of the animals Chagall painted are found in “Married People in the Village.” The red cow, Mr. Lee suggested, symbolizes the mother country or eternal love. A man blowing on a ram’s horn in one corner reflects the musicians at Jewish celebrations during Chagall’s youth.
At the gallery, visitors can take in a two-part, 50-minute video documentary, which touches on Chagall’s efforts with other media, such as ceramics and stained glass.
A tapestry of Chagall’s 1963 lithograph, “David and Bathsheba,” blankets the third-floor wall. The image of the prophet Nathan hovering over King David and his mistress is striking. The prophet appears to scold the king. The dark blue shades and the presence of a lamb used as a sacrifice for repentance heighten the somber mood.
Running to Sept. 30, the show costs 8,000 won ($6.75) for adults, 4,000 won for children. It is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Phone: (02) 734-5839.

by Joel Levin
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