Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Robert Taub - Too Brutal To Name

The pictures grabbed me as soon as I walked in.  It took a second to realize they weren't photos, though they look like they are derived from photos.  The program says 'graphite drawings on Arches paper."   The picture on the left is Abba Kovner, commander  of the Jewish Partisans Organization.

From Jewish Virtual History:
"On the night of December 31, 1941, Kovner read before a meeting of delegates of all Jewish Youth Movements a public announcement:
'Hitler is plotting to destroy all European Jews. Lithuanians Jews will be the first in line. Let us not be led like sheep to the slaughterhouse. It is right, we are weak and without defense, but the only answer to the enemy is resistance!'”
It also says he was born in "Sebastapol, Russia."  In 1918.  Four years before my mom mom was born.

This picture did me in.  How evil must you be to shoot a man and the child he's holding?  And I imagine that the shooter had children himself. Or would one day. And they would think of him as their Daddy, never knowing the role he played in this murder.  Or maybe he too got killed a little later in the war.   When I looked for the name of this picture, I found "Untitled - 'Too brutal to name' - Robert Taub."  Perfect. 

This one provoked me to wonder:  How does one spend these moments?  I assumed that those on the ground had already been shot and these men were just waiting for their own bullets.  But I can't match this picture to a title in the list.  And it's possible the others were already dead.  Most of us in the US don't face public violence, don't have to contemplate our imminent deaths like this.  But there are neighborhoods in the US where this does happen.  And there are still way too many parts of the world where law and order evaporates and people go crazy.  Just like this.  And if we aren't careful, this could happen in the US.  I know this because I grew up with parents who lived in a country where it couldn't happen either.  But it did. 

This one is called "Partisans, Ukraine 1943." 

All the pictures are haunting.  A description of the show said that this was personal for Taub and how his grandmother never talked about what happened in Europe.  This history is also personal to me.  My grandparents never got out of Europe, and by various lucky breaks, my parents were able to get out before the war began.  Barely.  Questions about how people could torture and slaughter fellow human beings have filtered through various parts of my brain trying to find ways to construct answers since I first saw the numbers tattooed on the arms of holocaust survivors in our neighborhood in LA.

From Robert Taub's website:  
Much of his work is visually beautiful and poignant, and at the same time confrontational and violent. He has chronicled revolutionary and outlaw movements in the US, Latin America, Mexico and Africa, as well as the fratricidal struggles for power within the Russian Mafia and Los Angeles street gangs. Recently he has turned to the events and consequences that led up to and finalized in Europe's two world wars. A project intensely personal and many years in the making.

There are more pictures from the exhibit at the website.  

I couldn't look at them all too closely.  It was too grim.  This is a collection that should be somewhere, as a whole, where people can see it.  These not the kind of pictures I would want to look at every day at home. 

Fortunately, I was greeted by a lemon (lime?) tree outside the gallery.  You can see it below, but you can't smell the intense sweetness of the flower which eased me out of the exhibit.

The Lois Lambert Gallery is at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.

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