Boris Lurie | Black Susan | 1962
Oil and paper on canvas | 136 x 132 cm
© Boris Lurie Art Foundation, New York, USA
Boris Lurie from a statement on the Involvement Show, New York, 1961
Today, it is hard to believe that, during the NO!art group’s most active period, no critic thought to subscribe these works to Holocaust survivors. The inference to past traumas appears clear enough today, but this can also lead to one-dimensional conclusions about Boris Lurie’s work. Back when they were first created, however, the works were condemned as blasphemous, discriminatory and plain intolerable. Critics with a more positive outlook saw the desperately crumbling images as holding up a mirror to the conflicting morals in Cold War-era America. Strewn with pictures of pin-up girls, which he had phases of collecting and examining obsessively, Lurie’s canvases bear witness to an attempt by the artist to liberate himself from obsession and helplessness in both senses of the word. By pasting layer upon layer of paint on the collection of cut-out pin-ups with which he had plastered the walls of his studio – effectively “drowning” them on the canvas in both a figurative and actual sense – he also freed his mind for a new artistic approach that liberated him of the necessity for his art to be of an illustrative nature. Erotic photos from magazines were also used in the mid-1950s by later pop art apologists Rauschenberg and Johns. As a time-immanent phenomenon, they became part of the image canon of contemporary art.