Larry Abramson

1906, Israel, 2003

Charcoal on paper
8 parts, overall size 212x302 cm

Courtesy of the artist

1906 is the title of Larry Abramson’s extensive series from the years 2002-2004. The artist embarks on a quest for traces in ruins: ruins caused by war, terrorism and earthquakes, but also in construction sites and piles of building waste. 1906 was painted in direct dialogue with Felix Nussbaum’s last painting, Death Triumphant, completed on 18 April 1944, some two months before the artist was captured and sent to his

death in Auschwitz.

Abramson was motivated to enter this dialogue by the close connection between Nussbaum’s last painting and issues of the contemporary discourse: both artists engage with the collapse of an entire living environment – Nussbaum through his apocalyptic scenario and Abramson through his landscapes that are rehabilitated out of numerous fragments. While creating his Pile series, which he based on photographs of demolished residential buildings and dumps of building waste, Larry

Abramson found in Nussbaum’s painting a model that enabled him to confront the theme of ruin creatively. Opposite the destruction in Nussbaum’s paintings, Abramson proposes a new construction of his own. “Ruins always have been the starting point of something new. Ruins are the future, because everything that is, passes”,said Anselm Kiefer. His words also allude to a passage from Isaiah: “On that day his stronghold cities shall be like the deserted sites…” (Isa. 17.9). The prophet simultaneously sees both the cities in the present and their destruction in the future,

and this perspective can also be applied to Larry Abramson’s works. Felix Nussbaum’s Death Triumphant depicts a landscape of war where there are no living plants, only bullet-riddled trees, remnants of walls and a destroyed building. Cloaked skeletons dance on the ruins of Western civilization.

In his work, Abramson combines fragments from Western culture and from Jewish identity, in a minimalistic language that avoids direct political or religious statement. Abramson works in the no-man’s-land between the concrete and the non-concrete, thus leaving the viewer an expanse of interpretation for his own experience. The sense of vulnerability evoked by Abramson’s works makes them a universal expression of all human tragedies.

Inge Jaehner