SAMUEL BAK AND THE ART OF REMEMBRANCE
JANUARY 18 – MARCH 4, 2022
Samuel Bak and the Art of Remembrance brings together more than 30 paintings and works on paper dating from the late 1980s to the present by the renowned artist and Holocaust survivor that explore ideas of history, memory, and trauma. Bak survived the Holocaust as a young boy and after the war, emigrated with his mother to the newly established state of Israel where he took up the formal study of art. Over a long and prolific artistic career, Bak has sought to make sense of the past, cultivating a pictorial language that retrieves historical memory with the purpose of preserving Jewish life and culture in the wake of unfathomable atrocity.
Bak explores his memory of the Holocaust and its devastating aftermath not in explicit depictions of human suffering but rather through a rich vocabulary of personal, cultural, and religious symbols that elegiacally explore the enduring traumas of the past. Bak transforms recognizable objects, such as teacups, books, candles, and pears into metaphorical images that populate surrealistic and haunted landscapes painted in a somber palette of ochres, reds, and greens. In paintings where people are perceptibly absent, these objects serve as surrogates and material witnesses to irretrievable loss and destruction.
Painting is a catalyst for the reclamation of the past to understand the present. The exhibition posits Bak’s artmaking as an act of resilience and as a means of retaining Jewish identity and memory against historical trauma. While historically specific, Bak’s work unequivocally resonates with broader moral and ethical issues that continue to bear upon human existence.
Samuel Bak and the Art of Remembrance is curated by Lynne Cooney, Director of Exhibition and Galleries with Montserrat College of Art students Aurora Gloor and Morghan Schnoll.
The exhibition is presented in cooperation with Pucker Gallery, Boston and supported in part by Barbara & Jim Schaye, Mercedes Sherrod Evans & David L. Evans, and the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation.
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 27, 5:00-7:00 pm
Virtual Artist Talk with Samuel Bak: Thursday, February 3, 7:00 pm. REGISTER HERE
Curator Conversations – History & Memory in the Painting of Samuel Bak: Wednesday, February 2, 11:05-12:00 pm
Curator Conversations – Metaphor & Symbolism in the Painting of Samuel Bak: Wednesday, February 16, 11:05-12:00 pm
About Samuel Bak
Samuel Bak was born on August 12, 1933 in Vilna, Poland at a crucial moment in modern history. From 1940 to 1944, Vilna was under first Soviet, then German occupation. While both he and his mother survived, his father and four grandparents all perished at the hands of the Nazis. At the end of World War II, he and his mother fled to the Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp. Here, he was enrolled in painting lessons at the Blocherer School, Munich. Bak’s studies continued as he immigrated to Israel, and he later received a grant to pursue his studies in Paris.
In 1959, he moved to Rome where his first exhibition of abstract paintings met with considerable success. In 1961, he was invited to exhibit at the “Carnegie International” in Pittsburgh. And, in 1963 two one-man exhibitions were held at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Museums. It was after these exhibitions, during the years 1963-1964, that a major change in his art occurred. There was a distinct shift from abstract forms to a metaphysical figurative means of expression. Ultimately, this transformation crystallized into his present pictorial language.
Since 1959, Samuel Bak has had solo exhibitions at private galleries in New York, Boston, London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Zurich, Rome, and other cities around the world. Numerous large retrospective exhibitions have been held in major museums, universities, and public institutions around the Globe.
Publications on Samuel Bak’s work include twelve books, most notably a 400-page monograph entitled Between Worlds, and his touching memoir, Painted in Words. He has also been the subject of two documentary films.