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Told & Foretold

Essay by Lawrence L. Langer


Destiny Barletta & Tess Mattern


In his latest series of paintings featuring images of cups, Mr. Bak proves once again that he is a master of the collapsing visual metaphor. His images do not vanish from the canvas, but they lose their integrity, groping for a form that will enable them to retain some semblance of their original shapes. Often set against a background of mountainous or other natural terrain, these damaged images, offer a disturbing contrast to the indifference of most of the landscapes they inhabit. In the few cases where human figures appear, they seem displaced, sad, burdened, struggling vainly to establish some control over the disarray that assaults them. Frequently bathed in an alluring light whose source may be the artist’s desire to promote illumination in his audience, the scenes before us confront the viewer with the challenge of finding some metaphorical consequence in a universe where principles of wholeness have been reduced to an assortment of fragmented parts.


Samuel Bak’s art and the questions he raises are important for viewers today because he is overtly concerned with matters both of his own personal experience and those of the larger human condition. His work preserves memory of the twentieth century ruination of Jewish life and culture by way of an artistic passion and precision that stubbornly announces the creativity of the human spirit.

2014, Pucker Art Publications and Syracuse University Press
Cloth with dust jacket
100 pages with full color images
ISBN: 1-879985-28-4