The Estate of Maryan now represented by Kamel Mennour

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The Estate of Maryan now represented by Kamel Mennour
“Personnage”, 1962. Peinture Ó l'huile sur toile • Oil on canvas. 114 x 114,3 cm. Collection Smart Museum of Art, Chicago (USA).

PARIS.- Kamel Mennour announced exclusive global representation of the Estate of Maryan.

Radical and provocative, compelling and vibrant, his unclassifiable work unfolds at the crossroads of expressionism and figuration. With hope, derision, sarcasm and bite, the artist, whose sensitivity is rooted in traumatic personal experience, became, throughout his career, a singular witness of his time.

“I don't force anyone to like my painting, but I don't want it to be labeled anything, for example: denunciatory painting, unbridled aggressiveness... [...] As far as my painting is concerned, I officially declare that I would rather have it called ‘truth‑painting’. (MARYAN, excerpt from the catalogue Ariel42, from Ariel gallery, Paris, February 1977)

Following the opening of the major retrospective exhibition “My Name Is Maryan” at MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, the gallery wishes in turn to contribute to the recognition and influence of this pictorial work, that relates in many ways – through echoes and ruptures – to the gallery's program as well as our current times.

A first solo exhibition is planned for spring 2022, an opportunity for the public to discover this essential body of work that, in all its fascinating and enigmatic dimensions, continues to speak with great beauty and relevance to the collective psyche today.

Born to Abraham Schindel and Gitla Bursztyn in Nowy Sącz, Poland in 1927, young Pinkas, the artist who came to be known as Maryan grew up in a traditional, working-class Jewish family. In 1939, Pinkas and his family were captured by the Nazis. Under his mother’s maiden name, Bursztyn, he was imprisoned at various forced labor camps and finally at the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. Pinkas Bursztyn, who survived several near-death experiences, was the sole survivor of his family.

After the war, Bursztyn recovered from his physical injuries, which necessitated having his leg amputated. In 1947, he immigrated to then-Palestine to begin his artistic training, first in Jerusalem and, beginning in 1950, at the ╔cole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. As an act of radical self-definition, the young artist shed the name under which the Nazis persecuted him, adopting the name Maryan. Living in Paris for over a decade, he exhibited in prominent galleries, forged a distinct style independent from but adjacent to the ╔cole de Paris and the CoBrA group.

After gaining a following in Paris, Maryan moved to New York City in the early 1960s, just as he developed his notion of the personnage—using the French term for character to title the fictitious figures that dominated his mature oeuvre. These personnages are powerful vehicles for complex narratives and served as a conduit for the formal evolution of his distinctive painterly language. Working in a studio in the famed Chelsea Hotel during the 1970s—which is recreated in an immersive installation in the exhibition’s opening gallery—he expanded upon the personage motif to create works that explore psychosexual tropes and other figures both historical and fictional.

Maryan died of a heart attack at the age of fifty in 1977. His last decade was extremely prolific but emotionally and physically turbulent. While he had always refused being called a “Holocaust artist,” the psychological fallout of Maryan’s experiences overwhelmed him in the early ‘70s. Under the care of a psychiatrist, Maryan filled notebooks with drawings and text that provide insights into his biography and recurrent motifs of his art. In his only film, Ecce Homo (1975), Maryan paired a first-person testimonial of his experiences in Nazi prison camps with images of other social-protest movements.

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