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BEARING WITNESS by DAVID KASSAN
On view January 14 - 28, 2020
Gloria Ungar. Joseph Aleksander. Amrom Deutsch. Renee Firestone. Henry Oster. Ella Mandel. Morris Price. Jack Lewin. Bill Harvey. Betty Cohen. Elisabeth Mann.
11 survivors, 11 incredible stories, 1 monumental painting.
Bearing Witness is an immense, multi-figural painting of 11 Holocaust survivors of Auschwitz.This painting marks the culmination of years of work and research for David Kassan, meeting with survivors, listening to their stories, getting to know them, and using that insight to create intimate portraits in paint. Kassan’s paintings do much more than capture a likeness, they serve as testimony to the horrifying cruelty that each individual endured and as evidence of how, against all adversity, they survived.
Reflecting on Bearing Witness, early on, Kassan knew that he wanted to create a work that was “so large that it can’t be ignored.” In 2017, he traveled from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to meet with eleven survivors of Auschwitz at the Museum of Tolerance and hear about their experiences. He explained, “The number of survivors from the war has dwindled to the low hundreds of thousands, and that number shrinks daily. I want to write these survivors biographies in paint, creating time capsules for future generations.”
At the heart of Kassan’s painting is a message about resistance to hatred and a call to greater empathy. And it’s a message that the world, quite desperately, needs to hear. “The stories of Holocaust survivors, their suffering and the lives they’ve carved out for themselves, deserve to be told. They remind all societies to counter not just anti-Semitism, but all forms of intolerance. This intimate face of the Holocaust teaches us how to protect, promote and defend human rights in today’s world,” said Kassan. This incredible body of work establishes Kassan’s place in a long tradition of artists who have used painting to shine a light on issues essential to our survival as humans and as compassionate citizens of this world.