Sometime in 1945, or perhaps a year later, Boris Lurie arrived in New York, his adopted home forced upon him by the Nazis. When I first met him 30 years later in the twilight of his 66th Street Manhattan hallway to make a film about him, I quickly understood his longing to return to Europe. There, in Berlin precisely, I had seen his disturbing pictorial works: Concentration camp prisoners, waiting for their liberation. Ghostly figures between hope for life and brokenness.
Framed by pin-up girls in explicit poses. Lurie, the survivor of a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp, has made the beautiful and the naked, the gassed and the escaped, his subject. Not in the usual dignified to ritualized manner of commemoration, which has its own value, but juggling on a knife edge in the minefield between voyeuristic pleasure and pure horror.
FLUXUS Substantially, such works are mirrors - images of the own experiences of Boris Lurie, who was born in Leningrad in 1924 and grew up in Riga. Politically, his work, which reaches far beyond the Shoah to the America of the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, is an attack on "good taste," an attack on the rigged rules of politics, art, and society. This is and remained the program of the NO!art movement, which Lurie co-founded and essentially determined. He was, so to speak, its Andy Warhol.
Artistically and aesthetically, Lurie, who discovered collage for himself after 1950, was close to the rough Fluxus art. Above all Wolf Vostell, the most political representative of Fluxus; the two were connected by a lifelong artistic relationship, the basis of which remained their confrontation with the Shoah. How close this "Jewish" elective affinity was will become clear in July, when I juxtapose my films about Boris Lurie and Vostell in the Spanish Malpartida de Cáceres.
Placing the first European exhibition after the death of the NO!art artist in 2008 in the Museo Vostell there in the Spanish Estremadura, in collaboration with the New York Boris Lurie Art Foundation, was a wise decision. Surrounded by the art of his friend Vostell and other Fluxus greats, the museum is a good starting point for bringing the artist's diverse art back into the focus of current art discourse.
MIX-MEDIA Even Lurie connoisseurs will discover rarely shown works. Like the "Three Women" paintings from 1955, which are reminiscent of the ominous ghostly figures of Goya's "Black Series". But also many previously less known picture panels and objects, for example "wildly" painted suitcases as symbols of real displacement and homelessness, prove Boris Lurie's quality as a mix-media artist.
His collages in particular are cruel masterpieces of an art of remembrance that does not whine, is not loquacious, does not retreat into safe aesthetic realms. Lurie attacks: the silent ones as well as the perpetrators and fellow travelers and those who allegedly did not know about everything.
Of course, it is regrettable that some important, large-format oil and collage paintings are missing from the meritorious exhibition, presumably also for reasons of conservation. But the Museo Vostell is at least showing an incunabulum of Lurie art: "Railroad Collage," 35x 57 centimeters in size. One of those works that also repeatedly troubled the survivors and their descendants. A pin-up lady stripping off her panties over her respectable bottom. Lurie pasted this on the photo of a wagon with body parts, so that the pin-up girl offers her front body to the perished.
The accusation that Boris Lurie, whose mother and sister were killed by the Nazis, denigrates those murdered in the concentration camps is as understandable as it is false. And to defame his work as a misogynistic machination is still too simplistic, even if we assume that Lurie, the man, has not only the noblest motives in art and life.
There is no doubt that Lurie's art has an inherent ambivalence that it shares with the art of other artists whose works revolve around sexuality and violence. One need only think of Hieronymus Bosch's "Garden of Delights," which can be interpreted as a den of iniquity as well as a future paradise. Boris Lurie was aware of the ambivalent effect of his art. In my film, he says that he would have preferred to paint impressionistically, which he could do quite well. But there would always have been the compulsion to deal with the past, with social events. With the unpleasant, with the "hard things," but this had brought him no personal happiness.
However, the "Railroad Collage", indeed Lurie's entire oeuvre, can also be read as a symbol of triumphant life over all the mass and genocides of history. Thus as the quite Janus-faced victory of love and instincts.
However. What Lurie did not succeed in doing, his paintings did: In the year of his 90th birthday, they returned temporarily to Europe. And soon to their point of departure, Germany. In a modified form, the second station of the exhibition will be the NS Documentation Center in Cologne. A respectable address whose audience will extend beyond the circle of art enthusiasts. Art, however, and not only here, that wants to have a lasting effect beyond the occasion of its creation, needs a place in the art museum. Everything else is everything else ... This applies to Picasso's art as well as to that of Boris Lurie.
Source in German: http://www.juedische-allgemeine.de/article/view/id/19422