“H·O·P·E: Paintings by Samuel Bak”

Holocaust artist Samuel Bak creates an astoundingly complex, beautiful and richly colorful journey for viewers in his newest exhibit opening April 1, 2016, at Holocaust Museum Houston.

“Interspersed,” by Samuel Bak

“The Painter’s Window,” by Samuel Bak In “H·O·P·E: Paintings by Samuel Bak,” the letters from the word H·O·P·E. appear in various phases, some partially hidden, others fragmented, some large, others small. The paintings in the H·O·P·E series do not attempt to illustrate the atrocities of the Holocaust, yet they show viewers the destruction, ruin and sadness left in its wake. “The call to create art – and indeed to respond creatively to its power – allows us to find hope even in shattering despair,” Bak has said.

The new exhibit by the Massachusetts-based artist runs through Sept. 11, 2016, in the Museum’s Mincberg Gallery at the Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. HMH members are invited to a preview reception with the artist from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 31, 2016. Admission is free, but advance registration is required for this reception. Visit http://www.hmh.org/RegisterEvent.aspx to RSVP online. To renew a membership or to join and attend, visit www.hmh.org, e-mail membership@hmh.org or call 713-527-1616.

The exhibition includes a selection of 33 works by the artist. Dr. Henry Knight, director of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College in Keene, NH, has written about Bak’s work, “With a canvas called “The Painter’s Window,” Bak invites us to pause before his images with a sense of double vision, alert to what we see while being aware of the frames through which we see. In this case, we are invited to peer into a canvas that is both a doorway and a window… An even closer look reveals the letters H, O, P and E are present in two locations on the canvas – first slightly obscured by the cobbled window frame just below the faded rainbow and also hidden on the table among discarded pieces of taken-for-granted, daily life. These artifacts are now of a lost civilization, specifically items that express the routine of daily life related to food and drink, from formal Sabbath meals to casual teas.”

Bak is recognized internationally as one of the most important artists of his generation. Born on Aug. 12, 1933 in Vilna, which is now Vilnius, Lithuania, Bak was recognized from an early age as possessing extraordinary artistic talent. For centuries, Vilna had been known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” because it was a major center of Jewish cultural, religious and educational life.

Bak describes his family as “secular, but proud of their Jewish identity.” Immediately following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Vilna and the whole East of Poland was attacked by the USSR. After one month, the Soviets retreated, giving the city to the Republic of Lithuania. An estimated 30,000 Polish Jews found refuge in the city. As Vilna came under German occupation on June 24, 1941, Bak and his family were forced to move into the Vilna Ghetto.

At the age of nine, he had his first exhibition inside the ghetto, even as massive executions and murders perpetrated by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators took place almost every day. Bak’s father secured freedom for his son by smuggling him out of the ghetto in a cloth sack. Bak and his mother escaped the destruction by hiding in a Benedictine convent. They were helped by a Catholic nun named Maria Mikulska, and spent most of their time there in an attic. By the end of the war, Bak and his mother were the only members of his extensive family to survive. Bak’s four grandparents and father were murdered in the Ponary forest outside of Vilna.

The artist continues to deal with the artistic expression of the destruction and dehumanization which make up his childhood memories. He speaks about what are deemed to be the unspeakable atrocities of the Holocaust, though he hesitates to limit the boundaries of his art to the post-Holocaust genre.

This exhibition is presented in conjunction with Pucker Gallery in Boston, MA, and the artist, and is presented with the generous support of Lead Sponsor Susan Sarofim, Patron Sponsor The Sterling Family Foundation, Media Sponsor KPRC Local 2 and United Airlines, the official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.

For more information about the exhibit, call 713-942-8000, ext. 128, or e-mail exhibits@hmh.org.

April 1, 2016 - September 11, 2016

Mincberg Gallery

M: Closed
T-W: 10 am to 5 pm
Th: 10 am to 8 pm
F-Sa: 10 am to 5 pm
Su: Noon to 5 pm