Arrived in New York over fifty years ago. Art wasn't a big business back then. That came later, but Boris Lurie, the immigrant from Europe, never had anything to do with it. However, in relevant circles he was, remained and is, like Otto Dix, famous and notorious.
Born in Leningrad in 1924, he grew up in Riga and arrived in New York in 1945, or perhaps only a year later. Boris Lurie brought with him the heavy burden of memory. Of his younger sister, for example. Like her mother, she too was deported by those so inaccurately called Nazis. Both never came back.
This is the present and the past that makes the Russian-Jewish-German-Baltic growth of Boris Lurie become art. The fact that such art cares little for aesthetic subtleties, tramples on the nerves of those in the art business who are squeamish, but also presumably leaves those whose fate it addresses breathless, is the power of these works of art, which now have every chance of stirring up emotions starting tomorrow at the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial.
For example: Saturation Paintings (Buchenwald), photographs and newspaper clippings by Lurie formally collaged on canvas. In the center is a photograph showing Buchenwald prisoners at the barbed wire, presumably waiting to be liberated, faces reflecting tragedy and hope, life expectancy and brokenness. Framing this photo are those of a pinup girl in explicit poses and promises. This, too, is the freedom that awaits those who have had to forgo diverse life for so long under murderous conditions. Boris Lurie has brought the beautiful and the naked, the forgotten and the images of saints to the painful and pleasurable denominator of life. Works of art against forgetting, but also works of art that neither want to be appropriated nor legitimize looking away. Boris Lurie has artistically manifested the simultaneity of events more radically than anyone else in this century. The horror paired with the impact, the pleasure with the horror. And he sought to banish the experienced horror in the manner of concept art. Lurie's way of life and art, which has its roots not least in Goya and the Dadaists, it is easy to establish a correspondence to the political faction of Fluxus. And indeed, the French Fluxist Jean-Jacques Lebel worked in New York with Boris Lurie and the NO!art movement that he, Stanley Fisher, and Sam Goodman defined. An artist formation from 1959 to 1964 to which nothing was sacred.
Wolf Vostell, the most political of the Fluxists, also thought closely with Boris Lurie at times and was a lifelong friend of his. A look at the catalog of what is probably the best overview of Vostell's work in the last years of his life, which Ulrike Rüdiger presented to him in Gera in 1994, shows how closely Lurie and Vostell were intertwined in certain areas.
Lurie knows it is narrow, the border between the various pleasure and torture chambers of the world. And he depicts it relentlessly in his mix-media art of photo, paint, found objects, and slogans. And in the detail of men's fantasies, which are, after all, their own, oscillating from the beginning to all eternity between the female as vamp and Biederfrau. It is no coincidence that in 1960, the year of the Cold War, her name is Mrs. Khrushcheva, who smiles at us so good-naturedly and motherly in Oh, Mama Liberté. That image of the desperate, which is political, expressive, and altogether all-encompassing pornographic social NO!art counterattack against everything good, beautiful, and expensive.
It sounds like an all too often told artist's fairy tale. But Boris Lurie has hardly ever sold a work of art, even though New York's star gallery owner Castelli was certainly interested in NO!art. The artist earns his money with shares and securities; by online, fax and telephone in his chaotic apartment in Manhattan. The man, who survived various concentration camps, including a subcamp of Buchenwald, can only smile wearily at the question of whether this is not against his own artistic-political morals.
In the pin-up girls he recognized the real America. But despite the dangerous voyeuristic ambiguous game he plays, it is not about plump breasts. With Sex and Crime, the artist attacked those social obscenities that led to the Vietnam War, race riots, and the reformation of a left that was also radical. And the worldwide student battle cry USA-SA-SS has been slogan of the NO!art artists, which was part of the New Left. And NO!art was and is also that: the real antagonist of the worldwide victorious (?) Pop Art.
And Boris Lurie is, casually speaking, the Andy Warhol of NO!art artistry; an art that mercilessly goes against good taste and that has still not found a home in museums and collections. Which may be politically all well and good, but is a pity for art's sake.
Although Boris Lurie has rarely entered a synagogue in his forced and adopted home of New York, he is not a Jew assimilated to the U.S., but rather an Old Testament figure with image and word messages, which, written as poems, uses the dying Baltic German, his actual mother tongue.
Source: Thüringer Allgemeine, Weimar, 12.12.1998