Boris Lurie, “Liberation of Magdeburg” (1946), pastel and gouache on paper, 19 x 25 inches
Born in St. Petersburg in 1924, Boris Lurie grew up in Latvia. When he was 16, that country was occupied by the Nazis, and much of his immediate family was murdered. Lurie, who died in 2008, survived several labor and concentration camps, in part because he was treated as a skilled laborer but also because he was accompanied by his father, who was a shrewd networker. After the war, he served with the United States Counter Intelligence Corps and then migrated to New York City. There, he learned to make art and, due to his highly successful real estate dealings, created a foundation devoted to the preservation and promotion of what he dubbed his NO!art. Although Lurie’s art has been the subject of a number of exhibitions, Nothing To Do But To Try at the Museum of Jewish Heritage is the first show of his earliest work: paintings, drawings, and sketches, most made immediately after the war, works that he kept private. Two paintings depict wartime scenes: “Roll Call in Concentration Camp” (1946) and “Liberation of Magdeburg” (1946). Also included are a self-portrait, an image of his mother made from memory (“Portrait of My Mother Before Shooting,” 1947), and one later painting, “In Concentration Camp” (1971). The artworks are accompanied by a presentation of his texts and photographs of the camps, as well as family photographs, correspondences, and diaries.