Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage Showcases Work of Holocaust Survivor Inspired by Trauma
“Untitled (Self-Portrait)” by Boris Lurie, whose work is now on exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
“I would have liked to make pretty pictures, but something always stopped me,” artist Boris Lurie once reflected on his work, a searing collection of which is now on display at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on Battery Place. The exhibit, “Nothing to Do But Try,” brings together Lurie’s “War Series,” which recalls his experiences in a succession of Nazi ghettoes and concentration camps.
Born in Leningrad and raised in Riga, Lurie was 16 when the Germans occupied Latvia and shattered the prosperous, cosmopolitan existence his family had enjoyed during his early years. Herded into a ghetto, his family was soon separated, with Lurie and his father sent to a work camp, while his mother, grandmother, sister, and childhood sweetheart were all marched into a forest (along with some 25,000 other women, and children, along with elderly and disabled residents of the ghetto) and shot. As the war progressed and the Soviet army gradually reclaimed territory previously conquered by the Nazis, Lurie and his father were moved progressively westward, first into Poland and then into Germany itself, where he was eventually liberated by American troops at a satellite camp of the Buchenwald complex.
Soon after the war’s end, Lurie began chronicling his experiences in a series of graphic, expressionist paintings and drawings. Nearly 100 such works, almost all completed in 1946, are the focus of the exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which takes its title from a passage in Lurie’s journal that reads, “I try my first oil painting on a plywood board. The paints are difficult to manage and very messy. I think I am doing very badly, but then I try again: maybe I am not doing so badly…. But since no one taught me anything about art, there is nothing to do but to try.” Alluding to his lack of formal training, Lurie would also write, “I acquired the basics of my art at concentration camps like Buchenwald.”
“Portrait of My Mother Before Shooting” recalls the artist’s mother, who was murdered (along with 25,000 other victims) in a 1941 massacre.
The images on display at the Museum of Jewish Heritage attest to this method of insight and eloquent vision forged in a crucible of unimaginable suffering. The haunting sketch, “Portrait of My Mother Before Shooting” attests to a boy’s love of his mother, and the ache of a heartbreaking loss — both frozen in time. “Roll Call in Concentration Camp” depicts a formation of prisoners, evincing the feral gazes of people reduced to the status of animals, staring out from the canvas with the gaze of creatures both hunted and haunted. And “Liberation of Magdeburg,” which takes its name from the Buchenwald sub-camp at which Lurie was finally freed, renders not an occasion of joy, but a further apocalypse, delineated in dark tones of chaos and conflagration.
“Roll Call in Concentration Camp” depicts the feral gazes of people reduced to the status of animals, staring out from the canvas with the look of creatures both hunted and haunted.
When Lurie moved to New York in the late 1940s, he cultivated a personal style that matched his art — angry and uncompromising, seemingly determined to fend off popular acceptance. While producing work at a prodigious clip, he went out of his way to alienate curators, gallery owners, and dealers, with statements like, “the art market is nothing but a racket — an established pyramid in which everybody who wants to benefit has to participate.”
He also co-founded a school of painting called “No!Art,” which amounted to a rejection of the socially acceptable high culture of modernism, favoring instead deeply provocative pieces calculated to spur social action. This dynamic resulted in Lurie’s work seldom being exhibited during his lifetime, although pieces of his are now included in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
What energy Lurie had left over after his eristic pursuits appears to have gone into speculating in penny stocks and New York real estate, especially during the economic downturns of the 1970s. These activities resulted in a gradually accumulated fortune that eventually reached many tens of millions of dollars. After this death in 2008, funds from his estate were used to endow the Boris Lurie Art Foundation, which has partnered with the Museum of Jewish Heritage to mount the new exhibit.
“Nothing to Do But Try” includes not only Lurie’s art, but also a trove of family photographs, correspondence, diary entries, and ephemera, which provide context and background that ground his work in the historical moment from which it springs. This combination is the first-ever such exhibition of Lurie’s work, and marks the first contemporary art show ever offered by the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
The “Nothing to Do But Try” exhibit is now open at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (36 Battery Place, near First Place) and will run through April 29. Tickets are priced at $18 for adults; $12 for seniors, students, veterans, and handicapped visitors; and admission is free to children under 12 years of age and New York City public school students. For more information, please call 646-437-4202, or browse mjhnyc.org/ .
The annual Dine Around Downtown festival, presented by the Downtown Alliance and hosted by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito, continues its “Cooking At Home Edition,” broadcast via Zoom, which presents Lower Manhattan chefs as they demonstrate easy-to-replicate dishes from their restaurants, while also raising money for food-security charities. Upcoming episodes will feature Hegel Hei (founder Chinah), on October 28; and executive chef Amy Sur-Trevino (of Malibu Farm (on November 18). Participants can register to participate in free upcoming episodes at: downtownny.com/dinearound
Lower Manhattan residents have a new reason to gaze westward, after the Thursday opening and dedication of a new monumental public art piece in Jersey City. “Water’s Soul” is an 80-foot-tall white simulacrum of a woman’s head, with a hand raised to her face, and a single finger poised in front of her lips, as if beckoning the tableau before her to be silent. To read more…
To the Editor:
Good grief! That bizarre head of a woman looking out over our Hudson River is certainly the most grotesque example of a waste of money to be installed recently. It seems any space needed to plop down the latest turkey ends up on the river banks here. Thankfully I am well-enough downstream to not have it visible to me.
Recalling Five Points
Epicenter of a Notorious Slum Memorialized
The City has decided to dignify a district that was once a source of shame and that it later sought to erase, both from memory and the Lower Manhattan streetscape. In 1831, the City government considered a petition that warned, “that the place known as ‘Five Points’ has long been notorious… as being the nursery where every species of vice is conceived and matured; that it is infested by a class of the most abandoned and desperate character.”
Native New York journeys through city and state to explore the question “What makes New York a Native place?” The exhibition encompasses 12 places in present-day New York, introducing visitors to the Native nations that call the region home. Stretching from Long Island through New York City and on toward Niagara Falls, it covers pre–Revolutionary War exchanges through contemporary events. From Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) ironworkers who helped build Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers to Lenape (Delaware) teens visiting their ancestral home, stories of Native New Yorkers provide an expanded understanding of the region’s history and reveal that New York is—and always has been—a Native place. Free
Join Tribeca Performing Arts Center and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for a free pre-recorded streamed performance of Arm of the Sea Theater’s ‘City that Drinks the Mountain Sky’. Learn about the NYC water supply system through a 55-minute simmering tapestry of poetry, puppetry, and music. This special, free educational performance will premiere for one week only.
The link will be live for classes and everyone to enjoy on Monday, October 25 and will be available until Friday, October 29 at 3PM, 2021. Free
Exercise in disguise! Join in on the fun featuring easy-to-follow Latin dance choreography while working on your balance, coordination and range of motion. Come prepared for enthusiastic instruction, a little strength training, and a lot of fun. Participants are expected to bring their own equipment: weights, water bottle, hand towel, etc. Masks required. Free.
Billionaire Holocaust survivor George Soros is one of the most influential and controversial figures of our time. Join the Museum for a virtual screening and discussion of Soros, a new film that follows Soros across the globe and pulls back the curtain on his personal history, private wealth, and public activism. This program will feature an exclusive panel discussion with the director Jesse Dylan and producer Priscilla Cohen. Attendees will also receive a private link to stream the film online from October 21 to October 27. $10.
With its amazing gardens and views of the Hudson River, Wagner Park is the perfect setting to practice your art. Participants are expected to bring their own drawing and painting supplies. BPCA will supply drawing paper and watercolor paper only. Masks required. Free.
The chief endowment officers at foundations, family offices, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds are the leaders in the world of finance. They marshal trillions of dollars on behalf of their institutions and influence how capital flows throughout the world.How do they make investment decisions on everything from hiring managers to portfolio construction? Join us for an afternoon webinar with author Ted Seides as he discusses his new book, Capital Allocators, with Jonathan Brolin, founder and managing partner of Edenbrook Capital LLC, on this opaque corner of the investment landscape.
China Institute,”Join top architects and urban thinkers for a wide-ranging discussion on China’s cities of the future. For decades, China’s planners focused on tearing down the old, and building the new in order to fuel the nation’s rapid development. Glistening cities rose, while psychological and social costs took a back seat. Today, as China struts more confidently on the world stage, its architects are reaching back to Chinese tradition to reinvent urban planning—and redefine what it means to be modern. Free.
In recorded presentations by two renowned Mexican families, the museum showcases two traditions central to Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos): the art of making figures from sugar and papier-mâché. These two presentations will take place in Spanish. “The Sweet Story of Alfeñique” follows matriarch Margarita Mondragón as she creates skulls and animals, artworks made of sugar (alfeñique). “The Story of Cartonería Tradicional” (The Story of Papier-mâché) follows artisans Ana Miriam Castañeda Montes de Oca and Martín Ramírez as they make compelling figures known as calaveras (laughing skeletons), figures that humorously and poetically continue with their work in the afterlife. The art form dates to at least to the 17th century and were used to adorn religious spaces and represent various historical figures in processions. Evelyn Orantes and Joaquin Newman will demonstrate how to create paper marigolds. Free.
The Food for Thought series continues its pursuit of three goals – to restart, revive, and reconnect. October’s topic is romantic relationships: How do I find love (safely) in a post COVID-19 world? Join the discussion to learn more about online dating etiquette, long distance tips, and keeping romance steady within marriages. Free.
In American Hotel: The Waldorf-Astoria and the Making of a Century, historian David Freeland recounts the history of not just an American hotel, but, arguably, the American hotel. From the opening as the Waldorf at its first location at Fifth Avenue at 33rd Street in 1893, then more than doubling in size in 1897 into the Waldorf-Astoria, the hostelry rose to prominence on the local, national, and international stage. Opening for business on October 1, 1931, the new uptown Waldorf-Astoria struggled through the Depression, but rose to unparalleled prominence in the postwar years. Functioning like an American palace, the Waldorf served as a favored venue for United Nations diplomats and the hotel of choice for American Presidents until its shuttering in 2017. The Waldorf-Astoria’s story, Freeland writes, “is that of America in the twentieth century, and it would be difficult to imagine any hotel bearing the same degree of influence again. Free.
In this lecture, Jinny Berten will consider the relationship between George Washington and William Lee, the last three days of Washington’s life, Washington’s changing views on slavery and the concerns the Mount Vernon enslaved had with Washington’s last will and testament. Free.
The annual Dine Around Downtown festival, presented by the Downtown Alliance and hosted by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito, continues its “Cooking At Home Edition,” broadcast via Zoom, which presents Lower Manhattan chefs as they demonstrate easy-to-replicate dishes from their restaurants, while also raising money for food-security charities. Today’s episode will feature Hegel Hei (founder Chinah); Participants can register to participate in free upcoming episodes at: downtownny.com/dinearound
The tall ship Wavertree, the lightship Ambrose, and the tug W.O. Decker are open to the public. Explore Wavertree and Ambrose while they are docked; cruise New York Harbor on W.O. Decker. Wavertree and Ambrose visits are free; Decker prices vary. Check website for times, prices and other details.
Wigwam for Wee Ones
The Battery Park City Authority will present “Campfire Stories & Songs” on Saturday, October 30 (from 2:00pm to 4:00pm) in Teardrop Park. Kids and parents are invited to cozy up beside a campfire for stories and sing-alongs, while enjoying snacks and art projects.
This event is free to attend. No reservation required.
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New Rental Building in Hudson Square Contains 30 Affordable Units
Downtown’s roster of affordable rental apartments will soon expand by 30 new homes, as part of a residential development at 111 Varick Street, two blocks north of Canal Street. The building will contain a total of 2100 rental units (with the remaining 70 apartments at market-rate rentals). In exchange for committing to affordability protections on the 30 units, the developer received tax incentives worth many millions of dollars, which helped to build the project.
People wishing to live in the affordable units at 111 Varick are urged enter the affordable housing lottery being overseen by the City’s the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
EDC Points to Rising Ridership on New Ferry Route from Staten Island
Statistics from the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), posted online Wednesday by Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, indicate steadily increasing ridership on the new NYC Ferry route that connects Staten Island to Battery Park City and Midtown, which launched in August.
Mr. Oddo posted that, “our new fast ferry route has carried nearly 50,000 riders between St. George, Battery Park, and Midtown West. Daily ridership continues to grow, increasing from less than 900 riders per day to 1,140 riders daily as of last week.” To read more…
An Avant-Garde Bargain
Legendary Actors Studio Offers Free Plays in FiDi Now Through November
The highly regarded Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University is currently exhibiting its annual repertory season of plays at the ASDS Repertory Theater in Lower Manhattan.
Starting Wednesday, October 20 and continuing for five weeks (through November 20), the school will present ten productions, ranging from re-stagings of legacy works, to new dramas and musicals. All shows will be staged by students graduating with MFA degrees in acting, directing, and playwriting. All of these performances are free to attend. To read more…
An Ill Wind Blows
World Trade Center Health Program Faces Funding Shortfall
The World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical treatment to people affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is facing an impending budget shortfall that, if left unaddressed, could cause it to scale back services starting in 2025. Activists, local leaders, and elected officials are working to head off this possibility with new legislation.
More than 58,000 people are currently grappling with health problems arising from exposure to environmental toxins on September 11, 2001, and its aftermath. More have died from these illnesses in the years since 2001 than perished on the day of the attacks. There are now 21,000 people suffering from cancers related to September 11.
Concerns Raised about Proposal to Make Sidewalk Dining Permanent
Elected officials and local leaders are mobilizing against a plan by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to expand and make permanent the allowance that enabled restaurants to expand into City streets and sidewalks, originally adopted as a provisional measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Samascott Orchard Orchard fruit, strawberries from Columbia County, New York
Francesa’s Bakery Breads and baked goods from Middlesex County, New Jersey
Meredith’s Bakery Baked goods from Ulster County, New York
Riverine Ranch Water Buffalo meat and cheeses from Warren County, New Jersey
1857 Spirits Handcrafted potato vodka from Schoharie County, New York
SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, Debit/Credit, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks accepted
TODAY IN HISTORY
Adlai Stevenson II shows aerial photos of Russian missiles in Cuba to the United Nations Security Council in the presence of USSR ambassador Valerian Zorin.
1415 – Hundred Years’ War: Henry V of England and his lightly armoured infantry and archers defeat the heavily armoured French cavalry in the Battle of Agincourt on Saint Crispin’s Day.
1760 – George III becomes King of Great Britain.
1812 – War of 1812: The American frigate, USS United States, commanded by Stephen Decatur, captures the British frigate HMS Macedonian.
1938 – The Archbishop of Dubuque, Francis J. L. Beckman, denounces swing music as “a degenerated musical system … turned loose to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people”, warning that it leads down a “primrose path to hell”. His warning is widely ignored.
1944 – Heinrich Himmler orders a crackdown on the Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely organized youth culture in Nazi Germany that had assisted army deserters and others to hide from the Third Reich.
1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis: Adlai Stevenson shows photos at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council proving that Soviet missiles are installed in Cuba.
Best known for The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer was an English poet and author and considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages
1881 – Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter and sculptor (d. 1973)
1941 – Helen Reddy, Australian-American singer-songwriter and actress
1400 – Geoffrey Chaucer, English philosopher, poet, and author (b. 1343)
1916 – William Merritt Chase, American painter and educator (b. 1849)
1965 – Eduard Einstein, Swiss son of Albert Einstein (b. 1910)
1980 – Virgil Fox, American organist and educator (b. 1912)
1993 – Vincent Price, American actor (b. 1911)
2014 – Jack Bruce, Scottish-English singer-songwriter and bass player