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Last Folio: A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc



Artist: Yuri Dojc


Symposium: War and Memory: A Symposium on Last Folio
co-sponsored by the IU Cinema and the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana Univerisity
September 1, 2011 (3:00 PM - 5:00 PM)
Location: IU Cinema

Q and A: Last Folio: A Discussion with Yuri Dojc and Katya Krausova
September 2, 2011 (5:30 PM - 6:15 PM)
Location: Grunwald Gallery

Naming Ceremony: Gallery Naming Ceremony
September 2, 2011 (6:15 PM - 7:00 PM)
Location: Grunwald Gallery

Reception: Last Folio: A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc
September 2, 2011 (7:00 PM - 8:00 PM)
Location: Grunwald Gallery

The Grunwald Gallery of Art (formerly the SoFA Gallery) is pleased to announce Last Folio: A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc. This exhibition will be on view Friday, September 2 through Saturday, October 1, 2011. Last Folio is the inaugural exhibition for the Grunwald Gallery and is made possible by a gift in memory of John Grunwald by Rita Grunwald.
In 2006, the accomplished photographer Yuri Dojc encountered an abandoned school in Bardejov, Slovakia where time has stood still since the day in 1942 when its students were taken to concentration camps. When Dojc arrived, the schoolbooks were still there. He found notebooks with corrections, school reports, and remarkably enough, later in his journey —a book once owned by his own grandfather. His stunning photographs of what remains of a once vibrant community are featured in Last Folio: A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc at the Grunwald Gallery.

Dojc, a successful commercial photographer, encountered a Holocaust survivor at his father’s funeral in 1997. Their meeting resulted in his decision to take photographs of the Slovak survivors, before it was too late. In his journey across the country he took more than one hundred and fifty portraits recording their stories and their faces. On his travels he also happened upon objects and buildings that once belonged to the Jewish community. Moved by their beauty despite their state of ruin, he decided to find and photograph additional evidence of the lost community. He followed in the path detailed in his father’s book on the country’s Jewish heritage and began the project that would become Last Folio.

Dojc said, “We all strive to leave something behind, a mark that remains after we’ve left. But there is almost nothing left of the people whose lives were cut short during the Holocaust. Photography allows me to build a private memorial to them. It is through these photos that I can pay homage to them and keep their memory alive. I can only hope that my images will speak to the visitors to this exhibition.”

Together Dojc and filmmaker Katya Krausova, who joined him five years ago, have searched for and discovered a plethora of objects saved by the last Slovak Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors. They have also collected the memories of how these remnants survived. In one case, a man who heard that his town’s mayor was going to destroy a synagogue to make way for a parking lot moved in with his neighbor and donated his own home to store the books rescued from the neglected synagogue. The books remain in this house 30 years later. Dojc and Krausova met another man who had purchased an old synagogue and wanted to transform it into “the largest disco in Central Europe.” He allowed them to take photographs of the once majestic building that now stands empty and dilapidated.

Krausova said, “Yuri and I travelled many roads to small towns and tiny hamlets all over the country, meeting people and finding remnants of lives and fragments of memories. Retracing the experiences of our families, and the worlds in which they lived and died, has been an enormously powerful journey that has been emotional, spiritual, and deeply personal.”

At the centerpiece of Last Folio are photographs of the books Dojc found in a Jewish school in Bardejov. His beautiful portraits treat the books as survivors, the last witnesses to a once thriving culture. The images in the exhibition feature moving portraits of Holocaust survivors and capture the poignant ruins of schools, synagogues, and cemeteries. Dojc’s images of abandoned graveyards, synagogues and sacred texts speak of the destruction of time, the power of memory, and the poignancy of the importance of preservation. Each image is rich with layers of material information, a fragment of what once was. Each photograph is visually stunning, communicating the power embodied in these abandoned places. The exhibition also includes a documentary created by Krausova that follows Dojc through Slovakia.

Born in Czechoslovakia, Yuri Dojc arrived in North America as a refugee in 1969. Four decades later, Yuri’s photographs adorn the walls of private collections and galleries all over the world including the permanent collections of the National gallery of Canada, the National Museum of Slovakia, and the Library of Congress. In 2001 he received the Medal of Honor from the Slovak Ambassador to the United States for We Endured, a series of portraits of Holocaust survivors.

Katya Krausova is an independent television producer/director whose work has been broadcast on national television channels and screened at prestigious film festivals around the world. She arrived in Britain following the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. She is a director of a leading UK independent film and television production company called Portobello Media and Portobello Pictures, which won the 1997 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Kolya.

The exhibit is accompanied by Last Folio: Textures of Jewish Life in Slovakia, recently published by IU Press. The book includes portraits of aging Slovak Holocaust survivors and images of the poignant ruins of schools, synagogues, mikvahs, and cemeteries. With texts by Lucia Faltin, Katya Krausova, David G. Marwell, and Azar Nafisi, Last Folio presents a stirring tribute to a vanished culture.
Rita Grunwald's decision to name the Grunwald Gallery began with this exhibition, which holds great significance to her and her family. "Everything that you've read or seen about children and the Holocaust, John experienced that," Rita said. "Because Slovak Jews predominantly spoke Hungarian, sponsoring this exhibit and its visit to Bloomington seemed a perfect way to honor his memory. John and I did not have any children, and I wanted to find a way to perpetuate the Grunwald name. I've been thinking about how to do this for a long time."
Last Folio is made possible by a leadership gift in memory of John Grunwald by Rita Grunwald and is co-sponsored by the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University. Exhibition design by Daniel Weil, Pentagram.