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January 7: Boris Lurie and No!art

Lawrence Bush
January 7, 2017

Boris Lurie, a Holocaust survivor who in 1959 co-founded, with Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher, the No!art movement as a protest against the political disengagement represented by Abstract Expressionism (and, in subsequent years, Pop Art), died at 83 on this date in 2008. Lurie was born in Leningrad and suffered through several concentration camps in Latvia during World War II. Lurie’s artwork combined “imagery deriving from the Holocaust with samplings from popular culture, advertising, and girlie magazines, alienated critics and curators, and was ignored by the art establishment,” says the catalogue for “No! Boris Lurie,” a 2012 show at the David David Gallery in Philadelphia, excerpted at the website of the Boris Lurie Art Foundation. “Lurie deplored what he called the ‘investment art market,’ and he resisted its blandishments at every turn, rarely showing his art after the seventies and almost never offering it for sale.” He and his No!art compatriots were “not playful!” in their work, Lurie wrote in an artist’s statement for a 1962 show in Milan, Italy. “We want to build art and not destroy it, but we say exactly what we mean — at the expense of good manners.” In 1993, the Clayton Gallery on the Lower East Side organized the first show of Lurie’s work in America in three decades. In 1999, his work was exhibited at the Weimar-Buchenwald Memorial in Weimar, Germany, His work is also included in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. To read an excellent article about his work, click here.

“In a time of wars and extermination, aesthetic exercises and decorative patters are not enough.”--Boris Lurie

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.