NEW YORK – The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Lower Manhattan, has opened its first contemporary art show, featuring the late Latvian artist and Holocaust survivor Boris Lurie. Titled Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try, the exhibit is a portrait of a survivor, according to guest curator Sara Softness, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post ahead of the opening last week.
“This exhibition is quite in-depth,” Softness said. “What makes it so well suited to the Museum of Jewish Heritage is that it takes this body of artwork from Boris Lurie and uses the opportunity to explore the entire biography of him and the way he conducted his life both as a survivor and an artist.
“The artwork functions both as art historical but principally through the lens of Holocaust remembrance, by telling individual stories.”
Lurie (1924-2008) grew up in cosmopolitan Riga, Latvia in the 1930s. At just 16 years old, Nazi occupation took over Latvia. He and his family were forcibly evacuated to a ghetto. Later that year, his mother, grandmother, sister, and girlfriend were murdered, along with approximately 25,000 other Jews, in what would come to be known as the massacre at Rumbula.
In the years that followed, Lurie and his father together survived several labor and concentration camps throughout Latvia, Poland and Germany, until liberation from Buchenwald-Magdeburg.
Lurie created his “War Series” in the immediate aftermath of the war, following his service with the US Counter Intelligence Corps and subsequent immigration to New York.
Although best known for his 1960s artwork, the exhibition is centered around Lurie’s earliest paintings and drawings, dubbed his “War Series.” He considered the nearly 100 pictures as a private emotional release, and never exhibited them in his lifetime. Included in the exhibition is Lurie’s only known self-portrait as a young man, in which he appears disembodied with a plaintive expression.
The exhibition is a collaboration with the Boris Lurie Art Foundation, based in Clifton, New Jersey. Posthumously, Lurie’s artwork has mainly been displayed in Europe. “This obviously requires tons of art shipment of great expense and logistics,” Softness explained. “So this collaboration, here in New York, resulted in us being able to show so much more artwork and explore in great depth his personal archive.”
Museum President and CEO Jack Kliger said the institution is committed to focusing on Holocaust victims and survivors in their every act of remembrance and education.
“We are very honored to present this deeply moving exhibition and to have this opportunity to examine Holocaust history through the artistic brilliance of Mr. Lurie,” he said.