Wed, 21 Apr 2021

by Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, April 7 (Xinhua) -- For many years, Mexican-born painter Yishai Jusidman struggled with the idea of how to portray the Holocaust in his art work. It is a conundrum many in the art world have faced -- how to represent one of the history's most horrific events through art.

While trying to solve this dilemma, he stumbled upon a little-known fact. During a tour of gas chambers, he saw blue stains on the iron walls. The blue stains were the pigment of the color known to artists as Prussian Blue. Incidentally, this pigment was left on the walls of the Nazi killing chambers as a result of a chemical reaction between the Zyklon B pesticide used to exterminate their victims and the iron present in the buildings.

"This is a real concise concrete relationship that brings together the gassings with painting in a terrible coincidence that for some reason no other painter seemed to have noticed," Jusidman told Xinhua.

After his discovery of the presence of the Prussian Blue residue in the gas chambers, he began working with the different shades of the pigment. He created a series of 32 paintings which portray, almost recreate, scenes from the Holocaust with great accuracy.

For the first time, after first being displayed in the artist's birthplace of Mexico, the exhibition, entitled "Prussian Blue," is on display in Israel ahead of the national annual Holocaust memorial day to be marked on Thursday.

Hosted by the Mishkan Museum of Art at the Ein Harod Kibbutz, the exhibition begins with a series of small paintings that display the different shades of Prussian Blue as extracted from the many rags he used for the paintings.

At the end of the corridor, there is a large painting that portrays the museum constructed by the Nazis in Munich. In an eerie coincidence, the Nazi regime completed the construction of the "Haus Der Kunst" (home of the arts) at the same time that the Ein Harod museum was completed, in the year of 1937.

Throughout the exhibition, there is a tension that Jusidman also felt throughout the years working on the project. The tension between art and horrific historic events, which haunts those who try to tackle this issue until today.

According to Yaniv Shapira, the Chief Curator of the Mishkan Museum of Art of Ein Harod, the exhibition found a natural host in the museum which holds many art works of Jewish artists who lived and created during the years of the Nazi grip on Europe.

"Such an exhibition is a perfect fit for this museum," Shapira told Xinhua.

"How can we talk about what cannot be spoken of? On the other hand, it is our duty to talk about this because it is our duty to remember," he added.

Same as many Jewish families of European descent, many of Jusidman family originating from Ukraine and Poland, was murdered in the Holocaust. The few survivors managed to flee to Mexico.

The project took him about seven years to complete. In his work, he made a deliberate choice not to portray people. The lifeless images, in the many shades of blue, add to the chilling effect of the exhibition.

"What this work needs to do... is something that cannot be done in other medium," Jusidman said.

The unimaginable scale of death which tore through Europe, is portrayed in the haunting pictures Jusidman skillfully created even without showing any humans in them.

The source of the photographs is also displayed at the last room of the exhibition where there is also a brief timeline and explanation of each photo. Until then, there is little text attached to Jusidman's works. When comparing the source to the art, the accuracy becomes even more evident.

"Everybody knows what the holocaust was, I don't need to explain it," he said.

The exhibition will be on display at the Kibbutz until mid-July.

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