"SECTION FIVE" (2002-2004)
From a series of 39 paintings
The installation was exhibited fully or in part at the following exhibitions:
2007-2008 at "LA Story" Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion Museum, New York, NY
2006-2007 at "Territories of Terror: Mythologies and Memories of the Gulag in Contemporary Russian-American Art" Boston University, Boston MA
2006 at "Eugene Yelchin: A Thousand Casualties" Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, Denver, CO
2005 at "Eugene Yelchin: Your Passport, Citizen" Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2004 at "Too Jewish - Not Jewish Enough" Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles , CA
"Section Five" refers to the fifth section of the former Soviet Union passport, which stated a citizen's ethnicity. In the passport I carried until I emigrated from Russia to the US, the fifth paragraph listed me as "Yevrei, Jew."
In Cold War Soviet Union it was not safe to be a Jew. Jews were presumed traitors and security risks. Their activities elicited police surveillance and informers. As a result, Jews were in a constant state of anxiety.
The word "Yevrei" was embarrassing. Being a Jew was an embarrassment. It was also a liability.
Consequently, "Section Five" burned like a suddenly revealed deficiency, producing in the holder of the passport feelings of shame and guilt. It branded one for life.
My "Section Five" paintings are diminutive in size recalling passport photos. The faces, modeled after my own, almost becoming in the process of painting the faces of all Jews whose self-identities have been formed by fear of exposure, shame and anger.
I discarded my brushes in the painting of "Section Five." Instead I painted with my hands, fingers feeling intuitively through the thickened oil. Emotion twenty years pent up within me finding its way into a charged hand gesture, a slip of a thumb across a viscous surface of paint.
ABOUT SECTION FIVE:
"Memory, history, and persecution are the dominant theme of Eugene Yelchin's masterpiece, "Section Five: USSR Jewish Passport Portraits". In these stylized images Yelchin forces us to confront the anti-Semitism directed against Russian Jews, and the resulting internalization of a flawed sense of identity."
-Laura Kruger, Curator, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum.