Confrontation NO!art Group

“Welcome to this exhibition. If your eyes and mind serve you well, you will see something new. When viewing this show, please avoid applying aesthetic labels; do not call us realists, neo-dadaists, surrealists. These labels are neither true nor important in today’s context.”

Boris Lurie, 1961

This exhibition at the Janco-Dada Museum is dedicated to the artists from the NO!art group, whom we consider close in spirit and motivation to Dada artists. Three years after Boris Lurie’s solo exhibition at the museum, the current exhibition displays a selection of works by the NO!art group. Most of the displayed works are collages and assemblages, while some are based on readymade. All these techniques are also identified with the work of Dada artists. Like the Dadaists, who sought to oppose bourgeois society and its art, the artists in the NO!art group emerged in New York in the late 1950s and early 1960s in protest against art and society.

The works displayed in the exhibition stretch the boundaries of the term “Beaux Artes” by arousing feelings of rejection and disgust: burned dolls, shit sculptures, assemblages made from discarded objects and garbage from the world of consumerism and abundance. The works portray violence, sex and waste and were created out of a desire to protest the ills of human society. Indeed, at the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century when these artists were active, they worked at the margins of the art world and produced these works, fully aware they would have no commercial value and would not adorn the bourgeois homes of contemporary art collectors.

The exhibition includes works by sixteen artists: Boris Lurie’s assemblages made of hair and paint, and reliefs of newspapers and ashes. Sam Goodman’s readymade sculptures are based on garbage and broken objects collected in the street. The large collages by Stanley Fisher center on distorted portraits. The plaster sculptures of Rocco Armento are deliberately damaged. Isser Aronovici’s oil paintings focus on distorted figures. Wolf Vostell’s collages and assemblages combine photographs and objects. John Fischer produced a series of unappetizing sculptures made from bread. The photograph by Yayoi Kusama is part of an installation in which the artist covered furniture with growths that resemble male sexual organs. Dorothy Gillespie produced coffins for animals, Sam Goodman and Boris Lurie’s works are collections of lumps of shit.  Jean-Jacques Lebel’s assemblage is based on a castrated body. Stella Waitzkin used polyester molds in the shape of books and other objects that she gathered together in the form of fluid “libraries”. The collection of experimental and innovative films by Aldo Tambellini done directly on film, with no camera, studies motion, electricity, light and black. The painting by Allan D’arcangelo depicts a stormy, female sexual image. Erró created a photographic collage. The distorted clay parts forming the shape of a cross by Susan Long (Harriet Wood) resemble female genital forms or shells.  Finally, Herb Brown’s contribution is a disturbing painting of a boy’s face on an advertising poster.

Boris Lurie words quoted here above, attempt to warn the visitors that they are about to view works that may make them uncomfortable. Art critic Galia Yahav noted that for the NO!art group, unlike the other artists from that period such as Rauschenberg for example, the daring lyrical beauty of urban ugliness, the material fragility and the poetics of garbage are also accompanied by critical commitment and sharp anti-war and anti-consumerism protest. These artists made use of the markings of consumer culture to express their exaggerated and aggressive rage toward the system, and their firm objections to everything associated with the obsequious seductiveness and greed of Andy Warhol and his cronies and with the confirmation of American values.

Parallel to the exhibition, the Boris Lurie Art & Dada Study Center is inaugurated.

The opening display: Etamar Beglikter, “From Lurie to Lurie