Harvey Breverman: Rendezvous with history and literature in the aftermath of Holocaust
Aspaas, Kathie Menduni
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The printmaker, Harvey Breverman (b. 1934) makes visual statements through his artistic reaction to atrocities of the Jewish holocaust during World War II and the ethics, social aspects and crimes against humanity that have been connected to it. Energetic and emblematic of forces to be reckoned with, he reports the truth visually in poetic graphic form. Breverman depends on the dissemination of propaganda against neo Nazism in his compositions. He systemically implants his ideas aimed at the hearts, minds and hands of the women and men in society. Breverman makes artistic statements vis-à-vis, the eyes and written texts of the authors, Raymond Federman (b. 1928) and Leslie Fiedler (1917-2003), University at Buffalo professors of legend. The assemblage of legendary professors from the late 1960s and early 1970s, John Barth and Robert Creeley to name a few, are meshed into contemporary scenarios rendering visual impact, as in Melangue, where a committee meeting also reveals a triangular geometric drawing in the background. In The Creeleys (Bob and Pen), Breverman puts the poet and his wife in a somewhat abstracted tweaked caricature format, an aged television antenna in the background reflects and repeats old world burnt sienna shading. Samuel Beckett has presence in many of Breverman's scenarios, although, focusing on his more recent work where the Jewish holocaust is omnipresent, the irony of propaganda exists dramatically. The Golden Age Dutch printmaker, Rembrandt, (1606-1669), left an indelible mark on Breverman, where surface tone, variation of wiped ink and rough gouging and burnishing has a semblance of chiaroscuro and parallel both artists work. R.B. Kitaj and Breverman share a love of humanity and the Kabbalah. Interpretation of historical reality and the abstraction of Jewish identity and Diaspora are interpreted on both artists' picture plane. Jack Levine also studied the Dutch Masters and applied some of the Rembrandtesque technique to his painting as has Breverman. WPA artist Levine was a part of the Jewish American social realist movement and an influence on Breverman's style as seen in brush stroke movements and in visualized social satire. They were both printmakers in the 1960's resurrecting the graphic medium in etching, mezzotint, aquatint and drypoint. But Breverman is his own person, his originality is self taught, self produced, his students emulate him. He sets precedent and is a hard act to follow. He comes from the same school, as Andy Warhol, Carnegie Mellon University, but Breverman has invented his own iconography, his own reality grounded in an abstract philosophy. Imbedded with historical Jewish American social realist qualities from the 1930s, Breverman's artwork and his ideas are propagated and supported by the writings of Helen Langa. She has brought to the surface, "social viewpoint" prints in her 2004 publication, Radical Art, Printmaking and the Left in 1930's New York, and offers a visual and verbal discourse of the Jewish American artists that labored intensely to bring an urgent awareness to the atrocities that were taking place in Eastern Europe in 1930s-1940s. Langa's research is innovative because she has bridged not only printmaking but Jewish American printmaking to the new millennium and made it part and parcel of contemporary art history discussion. Langa has linked the cultural gap between the Jewish American authors Matthew Baigell, Sybil H. Milton, Stephen C. Feinstein, Ori Z. Soltes and Carol Zemel and contemporary American art and mainstreamed their messages about the Jewish holocaust into Western art historical discussion. Langa has dragged Jewish American art out of the closet and like an archaeologist she has documented and explained material remains and artifacts brought into fruition by Baigell, Milton, Feinstein, Soltes and Zemel. Breverman propagates these authors ideas into his artistic matrix by using symbolic elements brought to the forefront through their investigations. In the conclusion, Breverman gives visual references to historical memory and contributes to a better understanding of the Jewish holocaust. Breverman unpacks Nazi propaganda with a twist of Jewish irony within pedagogy, society, ethics and aesthetics in the sphere of twentieth-century American art.