"Alef" painters group
At the exhibition of non-conformist painters that took place in autumn, 1975 at the Nevsky House of Culture, works by Jewish painters were presented. Perhaps, the works of only one of them had distinct ethnic character. E. Abezgauz made his works on Tanakh topics and wrote the inscriptions in Hebrew. The painters participated in the exhibition wore nametags. Abezgauz's nametag was in both Hebrew and Russian. After the exhibition, 11 (according to other information - 13) Jewish painters united into a group named "Alef". The name of group is the name of the first letter of Jewish alphabet. The choice of the name symbolized the beginning of the difficult path to ethnic Jewish art in conditions of total prohibition on any display of Jewish life. However, so far, the "Alef" painters were united only by their Jewish origin.
Shortly after, "Alef" organized the first exhibition of their works. In those days, it was possible to do that in a private apartment only. For 10 days, visitors came to the apartment of E. Abezgauz on Stachek Prospect. About 4 thousand people could see 112 pictures, drawings and sculptures. Among the participants in the exhibition were painters of the elder generation who had already formed their idiom as well as those who were creating their own style. In the end of 1975, the extended exhibition came to Moscow where it also attracted attention; and in May'76, a second Leningrad exhibition of "Alef" group took place in the apartment of E. Abezgauz.
The group was noted in the West. In the US, a catalog of the group was issued with the name "The Twelve of Soviet Underground". An exhibition of large photo-copies of their works was organized and the exhibition moved from one city to other. A. Rapoport followed it. In the later Seventies or the early Eighties the group broke up because five painters left for Israel and three more left for the United States. Only four remained in Leningrad. They joined the Fellowship of Experimental Fine Arts. In 1989, in Louisville (US), all the "Alef" members gathered together again (that year was called the Year of Russia by UNESCO). Festivals dedicated to the development of the arts had taken place in Louisville since 1986, and the people of Louisville decided to dedicate the festival of that year to Soviet Art.
The works of "Alef" group occupied two halls in the local picture gallery. The exposition in the first hall gave a retrospective view of the works that were displayed in Leningrad in 1975; in the second hall, there were the works of more recent years. In 1990, in the Lensoviet House of Culture, Leningrad Jewish University organized the "Beit" action-exhibition. Olga Shmuylovich, a member of the "Alef" group, decorated the exhibition. The name of the exhibition (Beit is the second letter of Jewish alphabet and the word "Beit" means "Home" in Hebrew) became a symbol of continuing the cause begun by the "Alef" painters - the development of Jewish culture.
O. Shmuylovich herself emigrated to the United States in 1995. She was the last "Alef" painter in Russia. In the early Nineties, a personal exhibition of E. Abezgauz took place in the Petersburg Manege.
"And Abraham married Sarrah and she bore him his son Isaac". Ye. Abezgauz