Saturday, October 28, 2023

Art Spiegeleman (ed), Si Lewen's Parade: An Artist's Odyssey, Abrams Comicarts, New York, 2016

the accordion's slipcase

This is an impressive publication about a passionate artist and it serves as a testimonial and act of recovery for someone who turned away from the artworld. Born into a Jewish family in Lubin, Poland, Lewen (1918-2016) grew up in Germany, and then he and his family fled to the United States when he was sixteen. Returning to Europe in World World II as part of an elite intelligence unit of native German speakers (The Richie Boys), he was one of the first witnesses to the horrors of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Thoroughly shaken by the horrors of the camp he broke down and fled, later writing in an unpublished memoir:

"I checked into the nearest medical station: I was urinating and vomiting blood worse than ever, and my insides were one wrenching mess. I knew that I was finished as a solider, seeing the world for what, I thought, it was: a slaughterhouse, a bordello, and an insane asylum, run by butchers, pimps, and madmen. And Man? A festering, putrid, slimy excretion polluting the face of the Earth. A hospital ship brought me back to America, and half a year later I was discharged— "as good as new," one of the doctors said. I was not sure."

One side of this accordion features 63 reproductions of the drawings from his powerful pictorial narrative "The Parade," which was begun in 1950 and reflects in a gritty manner the "...recurring drumbeat of war that lures every generation into devastation." [Spiegelman]. The other side of the accordion is devoted to Lewen's journey as an artist and includes a long essay by Spiegelman introducing this irrepressible artist, accompanied with images of his works from the various stages of his career. Altogether this is a dense publication that goes a long way in explaining what motivated this complex artist and his responses to the world around him —always flavored by his experiences during the war and man's inhumanity to man.

Of this book's accordion format Spiegelman notes in the introduction that "The artist was delighted with the idea that this edition would be presented as an accordion-fold book, realizing his childhood dream of pictures sitting close to each other so that they could have a conversation."

For further information about Si Lewen check out this comprehensive website: SI LEWEN | Art Gallery | The Ritchie Boys | The Parade

Seventy-three double-sided pages, individually 7.75" x 11" and when unfolded 67ft 10inches.

slipcase with accordion

this side contains the drawings for "The Parade"

the side of the accordion that surveys Lewen's life and work

opening page to Spiegelman's essay with photo of Lewen

back cover of slipcase

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