Artist Rosemarie Koczÿ (1939-2007) was a native of Recklinghausen, Germany, and a three-year-old toddler when she and her family were deported to a concentration camp at Traunstein in 1942. Alert, sensitive, visually gifted, and upon arrival, suddenly deprived of her parents and everything familiar to her, the future artist witnessed during her most tender years humanity’s capacity for nobility and depravity.
The visual records of her experience, and of relationships she built and lost, are encapsulated in two extraordinary series of paintings and drawings. The fifteen paintings included in the exhibition, entitled Standing Man, commemorate the devotion of an unknown prisoner called Stacho, whose efforts to protect her as a vulnerable child (to the point of giving his food rations to her) cost him his life. The Standing Man paintings are loaned by the Stichting Collectie de Stadshof (Nijmegen, The Netherlands) and partner with selections of Koczÿ’s drawings, sculpture, and mixed media works from QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York, which will present the exhibition’s début, and from the Musée Création Franche in Bègles, France.
No less powerful are her accompanying drawings, entitled I Weave You a Shroud, which represents people who shared the nightmare environment in which she lived as a child. She witnessed hundreds of people suffer needlessly and be executed, from those who were unable to withstand the cruelty of their situation to those whose inner grace survived and shone in Koczÿ’s expressive portraits, each made from memory. The accomplishment of Koczÿ’s art is clear, yet as art historian Roger Cardinal observed, it is “…inseparable from her life experience”.