A Yiddish Avant Garde

Recently, I was given a Kedem Auctions catalog of avant garde art and artifacts from the Collection of Uzi Agassi (founder of Even Hoshen Press, which he started alongside his son in 1994, after many years working as an art curator and bibliophile). “With his knowledge in typography and book design, Agassi has a special talent for bringing together the work of artists from the world of visual art with poets and authors to create uniquely aesthetic volumes which bespeak of the highest quality in both form and content,” notes the Kedem catalog. The auction was held on Dec. 3 in Jerusalem.

I was aware of the Yiddish movement during the ’20s and ’30s avant garde (in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale), including the Yung-Yidish (1918–1921), an artistic and literary avant-garde group in Łódź, Poland. (The founding of Yung-Yidish, the first Yiddish artistic avant garde group, grew out of a meeting in 1918 between poet Moyshe Broderzon and visual artists centered around Yitskhok Broyner, Yankl Adler, and Marek Szwarc. Eventually, the group included some 20-odd members including Yitsḥak Katzenelson, Yekhezkl-Moyshe Nayman, and Hershele, as well as younger people discovered by the collective, such as the artist Henekh Bartshinski and the writers Elimelekh Shmulevitsh, Khayim Leyb Fuks, and Yisroel Shtern. In 1919, the group published a journal, also called Yung-Yidish.)

At bottom are typographic designs by Henryk Berlewi; at top, the El Lissitzky-influenced type illustration by Uriel Kahana; the three together are two Yiddish journals and a sheet music cover from 1926–29.






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