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Holocaust Museum Houston Presents Murray Zimiles
Murray Zimiles, "Olkienniki," 1989. Oil on paper, 24 by 18 inches. Murray Zimiles / Courtesy of Holocaust Museum Houston.

HOUSTON, TX.- 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 – comes to Houston this October in a new exhibit at Holocaust Museum Houston . Opening Oct. 6, "The Book of Fire" runs through Jan. 28, 2007 and is free and open to the public. The public is invited to meet Zimiles at a free reception at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006, at the Museum’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District.

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.

"Zimiles' expressionistic style conveys the ferocity of his subject matter," Norine Dworkin of ART News wrote of his work. "The artist favors richly saturated color, using slashing, brutal brushstrokes in vibrant oranges, reds, yellows and blues that, in their brilliance, signify helpless rage…. His most emotionally charged works, however, depict private moments of anguish: lone figures set against great, burning pyres. In ‘Olkienniki,’ a synagogue, black against a midnight sky, belches flames from twin windows while a Baconesque figure flees the scene. And in ‘Grodnow,’ one of the most representative, telling images in the show, a solitary, skeletal man, head thrown back, his arms opened wide, fiercely questions the destruction behind him."

"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 of "The Book of Fire" 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.

The book begins on May 10, 1933, the day the Berlin University students carried out their "action" against books they deemed un-German in spirit. It is followed by a quote from Heinrich Heine, "That was only a prelude, where they burn books, in the end it is men that will burn." The book ends with the poem "Smoke," by Jacob Glastein, its subject the inferno of the crematoriums, the Holocaust and the fulfillment of the prediction of Heine.

"These paintings, drawings, prints and artists’ books are graphic statements meant to engage and propel the viewer into the whirlwind of fire and devastation. 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," Zimiles said.

Zimiles was born in New York in 1941 and has been a professor of art at State University of New York at Purchase since 1977. He received his bachelor’s degree in painting and printmaking from the University of Illinois and his master’s from Cornell University and then enhanced his printmaking credentials through study in Paris, France.

Zimiles has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions since 1965. His work is held widely within private and museum collections throughout the world, including The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; The Jewish Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, Haifa, Israel; The Tel Aviv Museum, Israel; and The National Collection, Washington, DC.

The Houston exhibition is underwritten by the Houston Endowment, with special thanks to Continental Airlines, official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.

Holocaust Museum Houston promotes awareness and educates the public of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and violence against the backdrop of the Holocaust by fostering remembrance, understanding and education.

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