lust for life

To shock the viewers into opening their eyes. The principle objective of Boris Lurie and his “No” art movement was to bring back into art the subject of real life, to free it from the slavery of ownership that had defined it.  And to do so, it stood in stark and lonely opposition to the two dominant movements of his era: pop art and abstract expressionism.The supposedly pornographic and filthy nature of the works and their aesthetic power disturb the ceremony of a solemn and self-righteous national memorial service. The disruptive and conjunction of the non-linear is found by many to be disconcerting….

Lurie is hardly a household world. Critics and Cogniscenti and Collectors of the day gave short shift to Boris Lurie and ‘No’ art. Lurie once stated, “The art market is nothing but a racket. There is an established pyramid which everybody who wants to benefit from it has to participate – if he is permitted to participate.” …”In a time of wars and extermination, aesthetic exercises and decorative patterns are not enough.”

Pinup With Flower. 1959. Gertrude Stein:He takes as his symbol the “girly” picture, America's home-grown brand of pornography. Repudiating conventional manners, he shakes up the viewer; at any cost he strives to make us take heed of our reality, Lurie forces upon us the bitter vision of the cruelly smiling, heartless advertising pin-up girl. Her picture hangs in the locker rooms; it teases the “tired business man” who surreptitiously stuffs a copy of Playboy into his attache case; movie stars become commodities to be measured in inches, the dreams of America. Our environment is polluted with sick eroticism and callous indifference. Read More:

Hey, art is a business. Why can’t this Jew from the Death Camps play nice, heel to his role and be a good pet in the white world? let us empathize with him and make him an Elie Weisel for the victims? Y’know. Never again and all that? Lurie’s No is not a death informed negation, it is a statement of affirmation. No! to the accepted, the cruelty,and the desperation and despair; the societal complicity into which this machinery feeds and numbs the conscience, the prevailing manifestation being conformism and the materialistic. It is a “NO”, a “buck stops here” against the flood waters, a tidal wave of submissive yesses. oh yeah. if you could shine those shoes while your at it. The No art is anti world art market and the entire financial baggage of investment art which to Lurie was a form of cultural manipulation.

---New York-Rumbula, 1972, mixed media, 260 x 115 x 15 cm Rumbula was the location of a massacre by fascists to 38 000 jewish, 8 kilometres far from Riga. His mother was killed there when he was fifteen.---David H. Katz:NO!art’s self-proclaimed principle was to bring back into art “the subjects of real life,” which for Lurie, Fisher, Goodman and the others were issues of repression, destruction, depravity, sex, occupation, colonialism, imperialism, racism and sexism; the deep stuff, the psychological, edgy, discomforting material that makes people squirm; the kind of paintings you won’t find hanging, color-coordinated, over the wine-colored leather couch in a living room out in the Hamptons.--- Read More: image:

NO!art is anti Pop-art: (Pop-art is reactionary – it celebrates the glories of consumer society, and it mocks only at what the lower classes consume – the can of soup, the cheap shirt. Pop-art is chauvinistic. It sabotages and detracts from a social art for all.)…“Say he likes two artists,” Lurie continued, “they’re working in the same area, more or less, their work is very similar, they’re both very good according to him. One of them is a terrific salesman, and the other one is a completely, he sits at home, and doesn’t know anybody and just keeps on working and so forth. He’s incapable of promoting himself. So as an art dealer, the one who is a terrific salesman, is a much better deal for you because he takes some of the burden off your shoulders.” Read More:

---NO with Pinup Guard, 1962 oil and mixed media on cardboard, 56 x 46 cm---Kuspit:It seems clear that Lurie’s Dismembered Women have social as well as personal import: it is society that reduces women to sex objects, degrading and dehumanizing them, just as the Jews were degraded and dehumanized in the concentration camps. Women’s bodies are the sites of Nazi atrocities, like the bodies of Jews; Lurie paradoxically identifies with women for they too are social victims. It is worth noting, as Sandor Gilman points out, that, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jews were regarded as “feminized males,” and as such as inferior and defective as women, and like them “at risk for hysteria…a uniquely feminine nervous disease.” Hitler accepted this idea, and “linked Jews with prostitutes and the spread of infection,” as Gilman notes, which is why they had to be wiped out, a medical necessity that was also a “social cure.” Read More: image:

It has to be remembered that the Eichmann kidnapping trial and execution in Jerusalem opened the door to what could be termed holocaust studies. It had been a taboo subject; the mechanisms of extermination, interlinked with capitalism and a willing complicity on behalf of the population was toxic material. Hilberg’s Destruction of European Jewry appearing in 1963 became, and is the seminal text and Jews themselves did not emerge unscathed by the exercise. Lurie’s work did not  follow any  socially prescribed function of memory. It was not Anne Frank. As survivor of the Holocaust he embodies the memory with which he was psychologically confronted all his life. He did not give himself the assignment to make art that expressed in a representative fashion the terror and extermination. Lurie’s images rely on his subjective fund of experiences. He conveys his aesthetic and political positions in a very individual form.

Donald Kuspit:Nonetheless, however deprived of them, Lurie sometimes made refined, melancholy images of women, seemingly haunting memories of them—black and white as though still negative, yet poignantly tender–which served as the antidote to the poisonous pin-ups that pursued him with seductive fantasies generated by his frustrated desire. He made both kinds of images in the fifties and sixties, approaching his subject from distinct angles. He tied himself to his art the way Odysseus tied himself to the mast of his ship in order to survive the fatal singing of the sirens, even as it drove him mad with desire, which sometimes he mistook for love. But Lurie also took out his rage on them, injuring them as he was injured in the concentration camp, damaging them as he was emotionally damaged, dismembering them as he felt emotionally damaged, fragmenting them as he felt fragmented….

Lurie untitled. ---The Eichmann Trial. 1961:The recognition he sought after the war is what led to his capture. He could not help himself; he needed the recognition of being significant. Therefore, his capture was also a part of his own self-interest to be acknowledged for his achievements. Since it appears that Eichmann might not have much hatred toward the Jews, what can explain his actions concerning them? Hate seemed to be the only logical explanation for someone to continuously send people off to their deaths and rob them of their rights. In spite of this, hate does not appear to be the drive that compelled Eichmann to do the things that he knew were wrong. What kept Eichmann loyal and unwavering was not hate but self-interest. He wanted people to believe the only reason he sent people to their deaths was because he was ordered to. Nonetheless that was not the only reason. In the end, Eichmann was a selfish man who obeyed his orders in hope of moving up in the ranks. Read More: image:

…Lurie’s Dismembered Women have a perverse affinity with Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, not only because they are also fragmented, and he is also at odds with them—not to say conflicted about them and his own irrepressible desire for them, more broadly raw passion—but because they also prostitute their bodies. Their bodies could be used and abused—treated barbarically–just as his was in the concentration camp, suggesting that, bizarrely, he identifies with them. Did he also have to prostitute himself to survive in the

centration camp? Or at least submit to the will and authority of others, to obey their every command, to be completely controlled by them, to prostrate himself before them, which is a kind of prostitution of selfhood. Read More:

---NO poster #4, 1963 overprinted misprints, 91 x 71 cm--- Read More:

In a sense, Lurie was touching on a few crucial themes that Kafka was grappling with, but at a practical level of the Holocaust; Lurie never rejected his Jewish identity. But, he categorically rejected the legal authority- Jews were a legal commodity- of the owners of that identity to grant it on a sliding scale of features, or withdraw it from a person according to their own definition and their needs. Lurie saw the same tactic being employed  in post-war America, this play on admittance into the security of the white world under the shiny lights of consumer culture. Like the Coca Cola manta, “within an arm’s reach of desire.” Franz Kafka:

BEFORE THE LAW stands a doorkeeper. To this door-keeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. “It is possible,” says the doorkeeper, “but not at the moment.” Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper laughs and says: “If you are so drawn to it, just try to go in despite my veto. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the least of the door-keepers. From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each more powerful than the last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to look at him.” These are difficulties the man from the country has not expected; the Law, he thinks, should surely be accessible at all times and to everyone, but as he now takes a closer look at the doorkeeper in his fur coat, with his big sharp nose and long, thin, black Tar-tar beard, he decides that it is better to wait until he gets permission to enter….Read More:

---RAILROAD COLLAGE, 1962 / 1997 Technique: Offset print Image size: 14,8 x 21,6 inches | Paper size: 17,7 x 25,2 inches--- Read More:


Kuspit:Lurie is a romantic despite the painful realism of some of his imagery. However horrible, Lurie clung to life, and even had, as Irving Stone said Van Gogh did, a “lust for life.” But it was a lust informed by an impulsive destructiveness that uncannily suggests the chanciness of life in a concentration camp, and, ironically, what the psychoanalyst Anna Freud famously described as identification with the aggressor, suggesting the dialectic of Nazi sadism and Jewish trauma—indeed, the trauma of being an alien and alienated Jew in a Christian society, and especially in rabidly anti-Semitic Nazi society—that informs Lurie’s art. On one level Lurie’s work shows the so-called Stockholm syndrome in action—the persecuted individual takes on the traits of the persecuting society in order to survive in it—while on another level it shows the opportunity for independent thinking (and art making) the Jew has by reason of being an outsider. Read More:

Read More:

What guided Lurie was a sense of Jewish spirituality; the antithesis of materiality which artistically meant resistance to a world which is made to pass through the filter of the culture industry:

Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer:The might of industrial society is lodged in men’s minds. The entertainments manufacturers know that their products will be consumed with alertness even when the customer is distraught, for each of them is a model of the huge economic machinery which has always sustained the masses, whether at work or at leisure – which is akin to work. From every sound film and every broadcast program the social effect can be inferred which is exclusive to none but is shared by all alike. The culture industry as a whole has moulded men as a type unfailingly reproduced in every product. All the agents of this process, from the producer to the women’s clubs, take good care that the simple reproduction of this mental state is not nuanced or extended in any way….

…As late as Schönberg and Picasso, the great artists have retained a mistrust of style, and at crucial points have subordinated it to the logic of the matter. What Dadaists and Expressionists called the untruth of style as such triumphs today in the sung jargon of a crooner, in the carefully contrived elegance of a film star, and even in the admirable expertise of a photograph of a peasant’s squalid hut. Style represents a promise in every work of art. That which is expressed is subsumed through style into the dominant forms of generality, into the language of music, painting, or words, in the hope that it will be reconciled thus with the idea of true generality. This promise held out by the work of art that it will create truth by lending new shape to the conventional social forms is as necessary as it is hypocritical. It unconditionally posits the real forms of life as it is by suggesting that fulfilment lies in their aesthetic derivatives. To this extent the claim of art is always ideology too. Read More:

Related Posts

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Modern Arts/Craft and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>