The emotionally-charged artwork of Murray Zimiles’ The Book of Fire—a large format work depicting the destruction of spectacular Polish wooden synagogues during World War II—opens in a new exhibit at Holocaust Museum Houston October 6. Zimiles is a professor in the School of Art+Design at Purchase College.
The exhibit is on view through January 28, 2007 and is free and open to the public.
Using printmaking, painting and mixed media, Zimiles captures the emotional experiences of the Holocaust and violent destruction of Eastern European Jewry during the period. The Book of Fire bears witness to the Nazi atrocities committed against the Jews by citing eyewitness accounts gathered from people in the Warsaw Ghetto.
“These paintings, drawings, prints and artists’ books are graphic statements meant to engage and propel the viewer into the whirlwind of fire and devastation,” explains Zimiles. “The Holocaust is the pivotal event of our century, and perhaps of all human history. As an artist, it is my obligation to deal with this subject. This art was born from necessity, a necessity to tell my story and the story of my people.”
The Book of Fire is a large-format book (50 inches by 38 inches) consisting of 22 lithographs and three woodcuts installed accordion-style. All the pages can be shown at once if they are stretched out on zig-zag mounts along a 40-foot wall.
Zimiles chose this art style to portray an image of multiples. He let the lithographic ink dry on the plates before layering the image with a second painted surface to create a doubling effect, linking the connections between the paintings and the pages of the book.
Zimiles’ artwork is dedicated to the synagogues that were destroyed by the Nazis. These synagogues were extraordinary works of folk architecture built by craftsmen who created a symbol to represent their people, God and eternity.
During the Holocaust, the German army invaded Poland and destroyed all the Polish wooden synagogues. Eyewitness accounts gathered by Rabbi Shimon Huberband during his incarceration in the Warsaw Ghetto are used in this book to describe what happened to the Jews and their synagogues in the towns of Gabin, Parziczow, Sierpic, Rypin and Wurka.
Zimiles has been a professor of art at Purchase since 1977. He has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions and his work is widely held in both private and museum collections throughout the world, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Jewish Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, Haifa, Israel; the Tel Aviv Museum; and the National Collection, Washington, DC.