"The Flight Portfolio" is on exhibition through July 28 at the Crary Gallery, 511 Market St., Warren.
The idea for the portfolio was proposed by an artist rescued by Varian Fry and his colleagues, the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz. Lipchitz happened to escape Europe on the same ship out of Marseilles as did the lender of these works to the Crary Art Gallery, Dr. Herman Grishaver. The 12 contributors to the project were some of the leading abstract artists of the time. Included are Eugene Berman, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Viera da Silva, Adolph Gottlieb, Wifredo Lam, Jacques Lipchitz, Andre Masson, Joan Mir, Robert Motherwell, Edouard Pignon, and Fritz Wotruba.
Other items on exhibition with the prints are historical documents and personal effects collected on this theme by Dr. Grishaver. He will give a talk during the opening reception on the collection as well as on the historical (and personal) significance of the impetus for these works.
The "Flight Portfolio" is an outgrowth of the 1940-1941 activities of Varian Fry in Marseille. He led an Emergency Rescue Committee tasked with finding leading Jewish and antifascist refugees in Vichy France and getting them to the United States, away from Nazi danger. Since 1933, a number of organizations, including an International Rescue Association (IRA) had worked to get individuals in scientific, artistic and political circles out of Germany and western Europe. With the 1940 German invasion of western Europe, an Emergency Rescue Committee ("ERC") was hastily formed in New York. The committee made a list of threatened scientists, writers, artists, union leaders and anti-fascists who would get emergency visas to the U.S. This mission had the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was able to get the State Department to cooperate.
Fry was a 32 year old editor based in New York. On a trip to Berlin in 1935 he saw Jewish persecution first hand. A top Nazi official told of plans afoot to deport or exterminate all Jews. Fry filed reports to the NY Times and other publications. With formation of the ERC, he volunteered to travel to France with a list of 200 people to find, and $3,000 strapped to one leg. On arrival in Marseille in August 1940, word of an American who could obtain visas for refugees had spread, and in no time thousands of refugees appeared at his office begging for help. He encountered resistance from the American consulate in Marseille, so he used illegal methods, false papers, bribes, and secret escape routes to get people out of France. Finally, Vichy demanded that he leave and the American State department canceled his visa.
The ERC's work in France ended, but not before helping at least 1500 people beyond the individuals on the ERC's list. But he was persona non grata as far as the U.S. government was concerned. Only years after his death was the term, "The American Schindler" applied to Varian Fry. In 1942, the IRA and ERC merged to form the International Rescue Committee (IRC). This NGO continues refugee aid activities in many countries, including the U.S.
In the late 1960s Fry and Jacques Lipchitz, persuaded a dozen artists, some who had been saved by Fry, to donate works on the theme of escape, or flight, as a fundraiser for the IRC. The collection was completed in 1971, but too late for Fry to see it he had died in 1967 at age 59.
Also on exhibition through Aug. 18 will be The Photographs of Clare J. Crary: Architecture.
This is the second in a series of exhibitions featuring the works of the Crary Gallery's namesake. This collection brings together some of Crary's best work as he traveled the world the diverse angles and light of buildings and structures around the world.
A captain of industry, art collector and philanthropist, Clare's love of photography was sustained through a long career as an amateur photographer. Over the course of six decades he showed his prints in juried exhibitions on six continents.
The gallery is located at 511 Market Street and hours of operation are Thursdays 11-5, Fridays 11-8, Saturdays 11-5 and Sundays Noon-4. Admission is always free. For more information, visit www.crarygallery.org.