On the 11th November 2013 the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town will open a retrospective exhibition of the highest calibre. Samuel Bak, a world renowned artist, will for the first time, present a retrospective exhibition of his lifeís work.
Bak was born in Vilna, Lithuania in 1933. At the age of 8 he was caught up in the horrors of the Holocaust as the Naziís invaded Lithuania. He and his family were forced into the Jewish Ghetto, where at the age of 9, he held his first exhibition.
By sheer chance, luck, coincidence, and the resoluteness of his parents, he managed to survive the war. Although his grandparents and father were killed, Samuel and his mother stayed alive, twice being sheltered by caring nuns in the St Catherine Convent of the Roman Catholic Benedictine order who endangered their own existence by hiding them.
Bakís artwork reflects his experiences as a child during the war. His art explores the randomness of human destiny and the luck of chance that granted him life. Racism, intolerance, discrimination and genocide are the hidden subjects of BakĎs paintings. He is a conceptual artist who uses visual metaphors, allegories and symbols to encompass these universal demons, as he searchers for a visual language with which to describe manís inhumanity to man. These are pertinent and important themes given the history of our country and continent.
Since liberation, Samuel Bak has felt a lifelong urge to give visual testimony. His paintings are acts of remembrance. His style is inspired by surrealism with the difference that, while surrealism is based on fantasy, Bakís paintings deal with real-life experiences. But the chief characteristic of Bakís art is the contradiction of the aesthetic beauty of the horrors which he metaphorically represents in his paintings.
This exhibition is of great personal importance to Samuel Bak. The majority of the South African Jewish community are decedents of Lithuanian Jewry, including his direct relatives. The utter destruction of Lithuanian Jewry during the Holocaust has meant that the South African Jewish community are the closest remaining link Bak has to the community and culture of his childhood. This is why Bak has chosen the SA Jewish Museum as the venue of the first full retrospective of his entire artistic career. In a career of over fifty years, he has had numerous exhibitions in major museums, galleries, and universities throughout Europe, Israel, and the United States. For this exhibition he has personally curated the forty works on display, which include works from his personal collection which have never previously been exhibited.
The SAJM is honoured to be the venue of such a seminal exhibition. It will be our task to make his art known among the survivors of the Rwandan genocide, refugees from the African continent, and all those that have been affected by the horrors of racism, xenophobia and genocide.
The Art of Samuel Bak: A Retrospective will run until 28 February 2014