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Exhibitions: Past


The Art of Samuel Bak

October 27 – December 8, 2017

Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak

"Do you still paint?" a journalist asked me. "Do you still breathe?" I angrily retorted. What a silly question! I felt assailed, perhaps humiliated. I have been painting paintings all my life, and now, after more than seven decades, I still assiduously do so. And as the saying goes: for reasons of the heart that the heart does not know. For me, being a painter means being possessed by a world of ghosts; and making the best of it. —Samuel Bak

lluminations: The Art of Samuel Bak features 28 original works by world-renowned artist and Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak. He has devoted his life to creating work that expresses his reflections, experiences, and memories of living through the horrors of the Holocaust. The commentary, by Dr. Lawrence Langer, that accompanies each work, reveals the symbolic intricacies, along with the religious and secular motifs, and historical and cultural references that appear in each painting. Together they provide an extraordinary opportunity to explore and study the impact of the Holocaust on one individual.

Mr. Bak's work is disquieting, powerful, mournful, but also, hopeful. Although his work is the representation of the experiences of one individual, the exhibition offers the unique occasion for us to recognize that the ambivalence, or discomfort, that those outside of someone else's direct experience sometimes feel, can be transcended and embraced through the universal language of the visual arts. As a result, this can create unexpected insights about the multitude of approaches people employ to confront, contemplate, and share the enduring impressions

of their experiences. Mr. Bak and his wife, Josée, together with Sue and Bernie Pucker, donated the paintings for exhibition to the Brookline, Massachusetts headquarters of Facing History and Ourselves. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Facing History and Ourselves and the BCC Holocaust Center to bring the work of Mr. Bak to the gallery.

The exhibition includes a ten-minute excerpt from a feature film called Samuel Bak: The Movie by Laura D'Aprile. We have also included links throughout the exhibition to audio commentaries by Dr. Langer.

Please note Facing History and Ourselves forbids the photographing of any work in the exhibition.

Kathleen Hancock
Director, Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery

A Perspective on the Art of Samuel Bak: Some Lessons

The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. —Elie Wiesel

The art of Samuel Bak is more important than ever. As a survivor of the Holocaust, Bak experienced some of the worst that humans have been forced to endure. The Nazi regime viewed Jews as sub humans and dangerous: a people to be annihilated. Others such as Poles and Russians were to be enslaved, fit only to serve the "master race" of the so-called Aryans. The result of such an insidious ideology was the death of millions and, in the case of the Jewish population, the destruction of a civilization that had taken a millennium to develop.

After four years of incredible destruction the Nazi regime was defeated. Survivors such as Samuel Bak could only hope that what Nazism had represented was gone forever. He like the late Elie Wiesel and others put their talents to work to ensure that such a malevolent ideology would end up in the "dustbin of history."

Sadly, as we recently saw in Charlottesville, Virginia and currently in a number of places in Europe and elsewhere there are people who have either forgotten or never have learned the lessons of that terrible period only 70 years ago. This makes the work of artists like Bak and writers such as Lawrence Langer that much more important. It is also the rationale for the BCC Holocaust Center and the exhibit of Bak's work at the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery.

Art provides a way for people to utilize their imagination and their consciousness to the lessons that an artist like Bak is trying to convey. His use of color and image helps us in one way or another to experience the devastation wrought by a perverted view of humanity. Beyond the Holocaust and other genocides as real as they are, Bak provides us with a universal message that humans, despite their differences, are one, and that we need to come together to work for the betterment of humankind.

Ron Weisberger
Director, BCC Holocaust Center

Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. For more information about Facing History and Ourselves, please visit their website at www.facinghistory.org.

Dr. Lawrence L. Langer was born in New York City and educated at City College of New York and Harvard University. He is Professor of English Emeritus at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. Among his books are The Holocaust and The Literary Imagination, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism in 1991, Art from the Ashes: A Holocaust Anthology, Preempting the Holocaust, and most recently Using and Abusing the Holocaust. He has also collaborated with Samuel Bak on five volumes of the artist's work, for which Langer wrote critical introductions and commentaries.

Bernard H. Pucker is the Founder, Owner, and Director of Pucker Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts. He studied History and English Literature at Columbia University and received a Master of Arts degree in Modern Jewish History from Brandeis University. Mr. Pucker is a Trustee of Facing History and Ourselves; a member of the Board of Directors for the Jewish Publication Society; an Advisory Board member for the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation; a member of the Board of Directors for the Boston Center for Jewish Heritage; and a member of the Arts and Letters Council for The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. Pucker Gallery was founded in 1967 in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood and has represented the art of Samuel Bak since 1969.

All Images Courtesy: Pucker Gallery, www.puckergallery.com