Boris Lurie NO!art
Catalogue with essays by JJ Lebel, Saul Ostrow, David Rosenberg and Lorand Heygi.
Boris Lurie was born in Leningrad in 1924 and died in New York In 2008.
After Lenin’s death and the ascent of Stalin, his family moved to Riga, Latvia, where, after a few peaceful and prosperous years, they were summarily rounded up by the Nazis. From 1941-1945, Lurie and his father were interned in the Riga Ghetto, the Lenta Arbeitslager, Salaspils, Struthof and Buchenwald-Magdeburg. His grandmother, mother, sister and childhood girlfriend were murdered by the Nazis at Rumbula.
As a child, Lurie had a keen interest in drawing and painting, but it wasn’t until his emigration to New York in 1946 that Lurie began in earnest to create series of drawings and watercolors that depicted identifiable moments in his harrowing four-year transit in captivity. He always regarded these works as being "private" pictures, not part of his artistic creation. Yet given the complex emotional cast of some of these works, one can glimpse the first stirrings of the expressive powers of Lurie’s mature art.
Lurie stands among other camp survivors such as Tadeusz Borowski, Primo Levi, and Paul Celan, who have responded in art to the greatest inhumanity ever perpetrated. For Lurie – as it was for Paul Celan, especially – the only hope for art is an art that cannot simply be innocent, or lyrical, merely clever, or even beautiful or technically superb, but it must address itself to what is forgotten, what can never be the same. Rather than creating artworks "about" the Holocaust, Lurie critically appropriated readymade images of Nazi and other atrocities then circulating in the media, such as LIFE magazine, where they appeared alongside swimsuits models, ads for cars and cigarettes.
Lurie is most well known for the work he made under the aegis of NO!art, a politically-charged movement he founded around 1959 with Sam Goodman, a well-regarded abstract-expressionist painter. Stanley Fisher, an artist, Beat poet, and publisher of Beat Coast East, joined them shortly thereafter. They created intense, furiously produced, and violently assertive collages in which pin-ups are intermingled, and often stacked on top of pictures from the political, religious, or commercial landscape, these collages then savagely attacked with paint. As opposed to taking these images separately, at face value, the NO!artists exposed this juxtaposition in their work, questioning their use as currency in our spectacular, consumer, society. They worked to raise political consciousness in the art world in a period of complacency and apathy, anticipating the counterculture of the late sixties. Again and again, they invoked the historical and political struggle to counter amnesia, moral blindness, and the banality of evil operating in our everyday lives.
The painter Leon Golub is reported to have said, "Boris Lurie is the epitome of the engaged artist; he puts the rest of us to shame." In the exhibitions they organized at the 10th Street March Gallery and later at the uptown Gallery Gertrude Stein, they were accompanied by a loose but powerful group of artists that included Rocco Armento, Isser Aronovici, Erro, Allan Kaprow, Yayoi Kusama, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Lil Picard, Michelle Stuart, Aldo Tambellini, and Wolf Vostell, among others.
Boris Lurie‘s art has been featured in over 50 major exhibitions since 1950: including shows at the Arturo Schwarz Gallery in Milan, at the Former Gestapo headquarters in Cologne, at the Berlin Jewish Museum, the New York Jewish Museum, at Chelsea Art Museum in New York, at the Box LA, at Frieze Art Fair New York and at Museo Volstell Malpartida.