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NO COMPROMISES

Boris Lurie at Jewish Museum Berlin, written on Mar 16, 2016

Lurie poster exhibition Berlin 2016Visitors at Jewish Museum Berlin 2016
  Poster | Visitors

The Jewish Museum in Berlin presents the largest posthumous retrospective of NO!art artist Boris Lurie to this date. With this exhibition, the museum invites visitors to discover the uncompromising artist and his highly topical work. An indictor of racism, sexism, and consumer culture, he created works that evoke both horror and fascination.

Lurie, born in Leningrad in 1924, moved with his family to Riga (Latvia) in 1925 because of the burgeoning political and Stalinist changes in Russia. Fatefully, the family was separated after German troops occupied the Baltic States. Mother, sister and his childhood sweetheart were murdered by the SS in mass shootings. Lurie and his father were forced into forced labor and enslaved in various ghettos. Salvation came only on April 11, 1945, when the Buchenwald subcamp was liberated by the American Army. In 1946, his father and he emigrated to the USA, specifically to New York.

Admission to the exhibition is only granted to those who have been able to pass the security check without an alarm. Beginning with the drawings of his memories, which Lurie expressed in the "War Series, 1946", in the exhibition in the block quasi a window facade is formed with views of his innermost - autodidactic, still somewhat rigid, perhaps awkward, but in many a sheet expressive effect achieved.

It is immediately pleasantly noticeable after this viewing, without looking at the other paintings in detail, that the walls of the various exhibition rooms are colored in either orange, black or white. They give intimacy, cohesion and a soothing atmosphere to the paintings and drawings in their freely conceptually pleasant hanging. And this is appropriate! Indeed, as soon as the visitor, gripped by curiosity, gets involved in the art of Lurie and recognizes what comes to view in the first moment, he must remain in shock and or fall into sheer horror. For what is shown there by Lurie collaged, painted and painted over on paper and canvas, is about the self-experience of the survived horror.

This museum visit has it all. Unbearable at the beginning, even for the one who thinks and is sure to have seen this bundle of corpses in flat rate often enough in the media to be unaffected by it. The why is founded in the paper collage of 1963 Railroad to America, in the sheet size of 37x54cm. Here, standing knee-deep in stacked, bony body parts in a railroad transport car, a young woman lasciviously and provocatively stretches her naked buttocks out to us. The bare breasts, which we cannot see, are facing the pile of corpses. This is outrageously disturbing. This print takes up a motif that Lurie titled Flat Car Assemblage 1945 by Adolf Hitler in 1961 without femininity. The woman and her sexual potency remains a pictorial subject in his oeuvre, never letting him go, and finding its way onto the canvas again and again in the 1960s with the giant "Pinups" made of illustrated photographs glued together.

Boris Lurie: Railroad Collage
BORIS LURIE: RAILROAD COLLAGE, 1962 / 1997
Offset print, Image size: 14,8 x 21,6 inches | Paper size: 17,7 x 25,2 inches

Boris Lurie: Flatcar assemblage by Adolf Hitler
BORIS LURIE: Flatcar assemblage by Adolf Hitler, 1959, print, 51 x 66 cm

Other subjects in series are the "Love Series" or "Flags". Suitcases, knives and axes are sculptures arranged in a mirrored room on the back left.

Boris Lurie: Immigrant box, frontsideBoris Lurie: Immigrant box backside
BORIS LURIE: IMMIGRANT'S BOX, front | IMMIGRANT'S BOX, back

Axes room
Axes in wooden blocks, produced by Rocco Armento in Woodstock

Until the end of the 1960s, Lurie often captions his works illustratively with slogans or often uses the words "God", "Piss" and more often "NO". The NO becomes NO! and then a NO!art.

 Boris Lurie: Hardwritings PISS, 1972Boris Lurie: Hardwritings NO, 1972
Hardwritings: PISS, 1972 | NO, 1972

The latter is an art movement in which its founders, namely Boris Lurie, Sam Goodman and Stanley Fischer, verified their views. As a group, they initially organized exhibitions at the March Gallery in downtown New York, from which the NO!art movement emerged. They fought against the trends of the time, including abstract expressionism and pop art, and used their work to attack fascism, racism, and imperialism in politics.

"The price of collaboration in art - as in concentration camps - is that one suffocates in excrement. It's not by giving in, keeping your distance, staying cold, being passive, or being bored that great art is made - whatever the cynics tell us - but the secret ingredient is something that's hard to learn, which is courage." (Boris Lurie)

His works from the 1950s have a power and quality reminiscent of Francis Bacon. Dismembered Woman: The Stripper deserves special mention here. And "Now, No More" from 1962 anticipates the contemporary painting of a Jean-Michel Basquiat. A video room with films on and statements by Boris Lurie bring the artist and his life closer to the viewer. The fact that Lurie was able to never have to make a living from selling art gave him the necessary freedom to do what he unconditionally considered to be the highest commandment in art: "No compromise!"

Boris Lurie: The Stripper
BORIS LURIE | DISMEMBERED WOMEN:
Stripper, 194, relief, 30 x 19 cm

Boris Lurie died on January 7, 2008 in New York. What remains... is the detonation of art of such an unprecedented, powerful and subtle kind. And a lovingly enraptured moment that, in the Portrait of my mother before shooting, releases from the exhibition the one who, looking backwards, is able to reflect the horror and the good.

Boris Lurie: Portrait of my mother
BORIS LURIE: Portrait of my Mother, 1947
oil on canvas and wood, 50 x 69 cm

Book recommendation: Geschriebigtes / Gedichtigtes, published for the 1998 exhibition at the Buchenwald Memorial, E. Holzboog Verlag, ISBN 3-9807794-0-8

Film premiere: On the Art of Boris Lurie. March 21, 2016 by and with director Rudij Bergmann. Rudij Bergmann, known for numerous ARTE films about artists from Max Beckmann to Neo Rauch, has created a very personal film in correspondence with the exhibition, which premieres today, eight years after Lurie's death.

Internet Website: NO!art.info | Highly recommended, with a wealth of information, documents, texts, images and videos, provided by Dietmar Kirves, a long-time friend of Boris Lurie and ally of NO!art.

TAGGED: more works by Boris Lurie

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