About the Show

The Austrian Cultural Forum, in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Vienna and the Embassy of Austria, will showcase two exhibitions touring from the Jewish Museum Vienna from January 20 until March 18, 2016:

LESSING PRESENTS LESSING, works by Erich Lessing, and A GOOD DAY, a multimedia installation by Andrew Mezvinsky based on Primo Levi’s account of survival in Auschwitz. 

The Chancellor of West Germany, Konrad Adenauer, meets the French High Commissioner in Germany, André-Francois Poncet on his first visit to Paris in 1951.  © Erich Lessing/bildrecht.at

The Chancellor of West Germany, Konrad Adenauer, meets the French High Commissioner in Germany, André-Francois Poncet on his first visit to Paris in 1951. 
© Erich Lessing/bildrecht.at

Lessing’s work will feature a personal selection by Lessing’s daughter Hannah Lessing, including landscapes in Israel of quasi-biblical dimensions, images of post-war beauty queens, the documentation of daily life in post-war Vienna and sensitive impressions of Jewish customs and ceremonies.

Erich Lessing achieved renown through his candid pictures of major political moments of his day, with his documentation of the signing of the Austrian State Treaty, now serving as the iconic symbol of the reformation of Austria as a sovereign state after World War II. His famous portrait subjects included the likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. From the 1960s on he turned his focus to the arts, notably serving as on-set photographer for The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews, which celebrates its 50 year anniversary in 2015.

"The Sound of Music" on Set. Salzburg, Austria, 1964. ©Erich Lessing

"The Sound of Music" on Set. Salzburg, Austria, 1964. ©Erich Lessing

By contrast, American artist based in Vienna Andrew Mezvinsky’s work A GOOD DAY contemplates a single day in Auschwitz in 1944. Inspired by the Jewish-Italian Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s autobiography If This Is a Man, Mezvinsky depicts Levi’s traumatic experiences in the concentration camp, including a chapter titled “A Good Day”, that describes a day at the end of winter when the first rays of sun heralded a relief from the cold.

Installation view "A Good Day" at Jewish Museum Vienna, 2013. ©Andrew Mezvinsky

Installation view "A Good Day" at Jewish Museum Vienna, 2013.
©Andrew Mezvinsky

Mezvinsky creates series of drawings, reminiscent of fairy tales, or even the figures of Commedia dell’Arte, which he brings to life in animation. What initially appear as idyllic scenes reveal themselves to be poisoned – arising to depict one of the darkest moments in the history of Europe as the Third Reich expands. Mezvinsky approaches the agony of Auschwitz from various perspectives; addressing the yearning for normalcy in the savage reality of an extermination camp, and reflecting on the basic conditions for human survival. His interacting multimedia exhibition, consisting of an animation film and a series of drawings, also with an interactive component, symbolizes liberation and an interminable will to survive.