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May I Tell You of Private First Class Nathan Hilu?

American Jewish Museum presents: Nathan Hilu: Word, Image, Memory


May I Tell You of Private First Class Nathan Hilu?
March 23-April 22, 2016
Fine Perlow Weis Gallery

Our current exhibit includes chromatic drawings by Hilu that depict his recollections of being a guard during the Nuremberg Trials in the aftermath of World War II, memories of growing up during the Depression in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and his interpretations of Jewish stories and folklore. A self-taught maker, Hilu ignores standards and conventions of artmaking, preferring to mix drawing with memoir-style writing and to make work by collaging and taping cardboard and paper together. His frenzied depictions, which resemble a stream of consciousness visual journal, are unpolished yet stunningly vibrant and compelling. Lifted from the title of one of his visual memoirs (pictured), the phrase May I Tell You of Private First Class Nathan Hilu? demonstrates his fixation on expressing that in spite of his modest status, he has personally witnessed and experienced—and has something to say about—history’s most epic moments throughout the twentieth century.

Lending perceptive context and insight, the exhibition includes written interpretations of Hilu by students from University of Pittsburgh’s Gender and Jewish History and History of the Holocaust classes. Their writing, which accompanies Hilu’s artwork, enhances and challenges our understanding of Hilu.

Read our blog about Nathan Hilu

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