Boris Lurie (1924–2008) was an American artist, who was born into a Jewish family in Leningrad (today Saint Petersburg). He spent his childhood in Riga. In August 1941, the Germans began the deportation of the Jewish population to the ghetto. The artist’s mother, sister and grandmother as well as the artist’s teenage girlfriend were shot in the Rumbula forests on the outskirts of Riga in December 1941. The Rumbula massacre was one of the greatest atrocities to be carried out in the course of two days by the Einsatzkommandos, in which some 30,000 Jews were killed. Boris and his father found themselves in concentration camps in Stutthof, and then in Buchenwald, from which they were liberated in May 1945. Shortly after the war ended, they emigrated to the USA. Until the end of his life, the artist lived and worked in New York.
Lurie’s creative output encompassed many fields: he was a visual artist – creating paintings, installation and objects – as well as a writer and poet. His activity as he saw it was a form of protest against pop art and abstract expressionism – prevalent in the USA at the time. He did not care whether his art gained acclaim on the artworld market. Together with Stanley Fisher and Sam Goodman, he founded the NO!Art movement. To Lurie, “‘NO’ means not accepting everything that you are told and thinking of yourself. And it is also an expression of dissatisfaction.” His was art that was politically engaged and called for social action, art that was spontaneous, anarchic and therapeutic.
Boris Lurie was psychologically affected by the Holocaust and his art was irrevocably linked to that experience – a ceaseless attempt to work through the trauma of war. Lurie created a unique symbolic language, in which authenticity and emotional tension went beyond the accepted norms of what is deemed appropriate. The recurrent leitmotifs of his work are footage from concentration camps, the Star of David, snaps of pinup girls cut out from magazines and the word ‘NO’ – given prominence in many of his works.
The artist’s legacy – the majority of his works and archival material – are the property of the Boris Lurie Art Foundation in New York. The mission of the Foundation is to preserve and bring before the public the art of Boris Lurie, while making the viewers aware of the complex issues that were the impetus of these works.