Karskaya, exh. cat., Hanover Gallery, London (4 October – 2 November 1962), London, Hanover Gallery, 1962
Karskaya, Hanover Gallery, London, 4 October – 2 November 1962→
Karskaya, Fondation nationale des arts graphiques et plastiques, Paris, 17 June – 14 August 1980→
Hommage à Karskaya pour le centenaire de sa naissance, Abbaye de Beaulieu, Centre d’art contemporain, Centre des monuments nationaux, 5 June – 2 October 2005
Born in Bessarabia, the young Ida Schreibman left the Moldavian region and its Ukrainian, Romanian, and Judeo-Slavic influences for Belgium in 1922, where she studied medicine. She moved to Paris in 1924 and specialised in psychiatry. There, she associated with the Russian bohemians and became a close friend of the poet Boris Poplavski, who was the lover of her sister Dina Grigorievna. In 1930, she married the painter and journalist Serge Karsky. She began to paint in the 1930s and exhibited at the Salon des Tuileries in 1936. She took a keen interest in the intellectual and philosophical debates of the Russian emigrant community (the philosophers Berdyaev and Shestov, the “Green lamp” literary soirées of the Zinaida Gippius-Merezhkovsky couple) and associated with Chaim Soutine, who encouraged her to pursue her pictorial endeavours; their friendship would last until the Jewish Belarusian painter’s death. At the beginning of World War II, she began to paint scarves. Jean Paulhan helped her and her family find shelter in the South of France in 1942. Her first solo exhibition was held at the Galerie Favier in Montpellier in 1943. After 1945, she mixed with the Parisian literary circles. In 1946, the Parisian gallery Pétridès exhibited her work and produced a catalogue, Portraits de viande [“Portraits of meat”], prefaced by Francis Carco. She then exhibited her 20 jeux nécessaires – 40 gestes inutiles [“20 necessary games – 40 useless gestures”], with a catalogue written by Paulhan, Henri Calet, Marc Bernard, Francis Ponge, and Maurice Nadeau). Her paintings, which were still abstract at the time, were grouped into cycles. She began to add various items to her surfaces (pieces of wire, leaves, bark, fragments of objects) in the 1950s.
Several exhibitions with original titles would follow: Gris quotidiens(1956, La Roue Gallery); Peintures, collages, objets (1962, Karl-Flinker Gallery – with a catalogue written by Paulhan and Geneviève Bonnefoi); Les Invités de Minuit, in collaboration with Esther Hess (1965, La Roue Gallery). The artist’s work was the subject of two retrospectives, one in 1972 at the Abbaye de Beaulieu and another in 1980 at the Fondation des Arts graphiques et plastiques in Paris. Karskaya created a pictorial world, a gallery of reliefs and sculptures that combine subtle refinement and barbaric paroxysms. Her qualities as a master manipulator foreshadowed “makers” to come, such as Annette Messager, and she developed a fascination for bric-a-brac and waste. Her pictorial prism consists in the colour grey – a shade of “everyday grey” that is hers only; an ash grey in which black and white are the main protagonists; a luminous grey that opens up onto metaphysical landscapes; a sublimely mundane earthen grey.