New York exhibit features Holocaust remembrance, art education by Buchenwald Survivor

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“Roll Call in Concentration Camp” by Boris Lurie, 1946. Photo: Boris Lurie Art Foundation.

The first contemporary art exhibition opening this month at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City will feature previously unseen works and artifacts by an artist and Holocaust survivor.

“Nothing to Do But To Try” focuses on Boris Lurie’s early works, such as paintings and drawings from his “War Series”, as well as newly exhibited objects and ephemera from his personal archives. Together, the art and artifacts show “a portrait of the artist facing devastating trauma, haunting memories and an elusive and enduring quest for freedom,” the museum said.

“Lurie’s identity was as bright as being an artist as it was a survivor,” said exhibition curator Sara Softness. The Algemeiner. “This show showcases both sides of him in all of this complexity – in a deeply expressive and visually powerful way.”

Lurie was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1924. When the Nazis invaded and occupied Latvia in 1941, 16-year-old Lurie and his family were forcibly moved to a ghetto. Later that year, his mother, grandmother, sister and girlfriend were murdered, along with around 25,000 other Jews, in what is known as the Rumbula Massacre. Lurie and his father survived several labor and concentration camps in Latvia, Poland, and Germany, until they were finally released from Magdeburg Labor Camp to Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

“I hope visitors learn a lot about the life and work of Boris Lurie, of course; but perhaps more importantly, that they will have access to an emotional depth that art, in some ways, is uniquely suited to deliver Holocaust remembrance and education, ”Softness said.

Lurie created most of his “War Series” in 1946 immediately after World War II and after his service in the United States Counter Intelligence Corps and later his immigration to New York. He died in 2008. The “series” includes nearly 100 paintings and drawings in graphic and expressionist style. According to the museum, “as their somewhat unfinished and chaotic style suggests, like pages torn from a notebook, Lurie regarded these images as a private catharsis and never exhibited them during his lifetime.”

“Nothing To Do But To Try” is Lurie’s first exhibition to consider exclusively the entire “War Series” with Lurie’s original family photographs, correspondence, diary entries, only known self-portraits and other objects. He once wrote: “The basis of my art education I got in a camp like Buchenwald.

The exhibition is also the museum’s first in-depth monographic exhibition of contemporary art.

Softness said, “While curating an art exhibit for the museum is a much different endeavor than developing a historical or commemorative exhibit, which is more typical of what the institution presents, the principle of organization is the same: we center the testimony of survivors and the experiences of victims, resistance fighters and liberators of the Holocaust.

“In general, Lurie is an underrated artist – but more so, much of the artwork on display in the exhibit is material that has been very rarely or never seen,” she added. “To continue to make discoveries about this artist, and then see him through his biographical experience as a Holocaust survivor, is truly a mutually beneficial territory between a history museum and the art world.”

Boris Lurie: Nothing to do but to try ” opens on October 22 and will run until April 29, 2022 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Holocaust Memorial. The exhibition will be completed by additional programs on Lurie’s life and legacy, including a exclusive conference gently.


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