April 22, 2023 – July 22, 2023


Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art is thrilled to present Fragmented, a solo exhibition featuring renowned ceramicist Roy StrassbergFragmented will highlight a variety of sculptural works spanning decades of Strassberg‘s extensive artistic career, from the 1970s to present-day. Poignant and masterfully crafted, Strassberg‘s ceramic forms evoke echoes of history and invite us to think critically about the ways we view and recall the past.

“Someone has to make this work. It might as well be me. Tikkun Olam.”

– Roy Strassberg

On March 22, 1933 the first Jewish concentration camp was established in Dachau, Germany, by the Nazi regime.

On March 23, 2023, the Anti-Defamation League released a report: Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2022.

Over the past two years, incidents of antisemitism have escalated at a startling rate. In 2022 alone, the Anti-Defamation League’s incident report records 2,298 cases of harassment, 1,288 cases of vandalism, and 111 cases of assault, totaling 3,697 incidents nationwide. These numbers represent a 36% increase in incidents since 2021. In 2023, nearly 100 years after the construction of the Dachau concentration camp, it is plain that anti-Jewish bias and hostility persist, and are on the rise. In a world where antisemitism has a centuries-old history, artist Roy Strassberg is memorializing the story of the Jewish people, and magnifying the importance of Judaic culture.

Strassberg’s Jewish roots and artistic practice came full circle and converged in 1992, when his work became principally Holocaust-informed. He was awarded a Faculty Research Grant from Minnesota State University, Mankato to study the Holocaust as a subject for artistic interpretation. This marked a departure from the more traditional, commercial ceramics he had been producing up to that stage in his practice. Strassberg often refers to this moment as the death of his mainstream art career. Uncomfortable with the new, conceptually provocative sculptures, galleries dropped Strassberg’s work from their curatorial programs. But Strassberg felt compelled to continue his important work honoring and telling the stories of those affected by the Holocaust.

“I grew up in an environment that was palpably Jewish. And I had relatives with numbers on their forearms,” Roy recalls.

Strassberg’s ceramic sculptures, however, are not direct depictions of the Holocaust. Rather, his thoughtfully crafted vessels and formations are living archives of remembrance – visual homages to one of the most heinous and unimaginable events in world history, an event that extinguished the lives of approximately 6 million Jews.

Fragmented showcases the breadth of Strassberg’s Holocaust-informed work across decades, and gives voice to a community fractured by prejudice, tragedy, and loss. Architectural structures – which resemble houses, towers, chimneys, and bones – are the foundation of Strassberg’s extensive Holocaust series. They act as vessels for their heavy subject matter. Raised in New York, Strassberg’s affection for architecture is endemic – a deep-seated that surpasses even his love of ceramics. In 2003, Strassberg was awarded the Architecture of the Holocaust grant from University of North Carolina, Charlotte, with which he advanced the artistic collaboration between his fascination for architecture and the memory of the very real, tangible structures that housed the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Barracks Houses allude to the wretched concentration camp living quarters.

Monuments – with numbers speckling their glazed surfaces – tell the story of a people that were marked for death.

Towers mirror the menacing guard towers found in the camps

Chimney structures recall the gas chambers and crematoriums.

Wall Houses reference Jewish gravestones, beautifully scripted with Hebrew and imagery.

Bone Structures and Bone Boxes implore us to contemplate the victims of the genocide.

The Bone Structures and Bone Boxes were the genesis of Strassberg’s Holocaust series.  These were the first, and most jarringly raw, artworks in a decades-long lineage of thematically interconnected ceramics that began in the early 90s.

Strassberg’s Jazz series, originating in the late 80s, is the structural precursor to his Holocaust-centric architectural formations. An observation of architecture and the development of structure eventually gave way to his unquenchable desire to transition these formats into more complex ideas that were more deeply felt.

Working from various sources – personal travels through Poland, academic research, and site visits to Auschwitz and a Jewish cemetery in Prague – Strassberg crafts his sculptures with factual essence. In his Davidson, NC studio, a clay-stained photograph print-out floats from table to table; a constant companion and the connective thread for nearly every series created. The photo is an aerial view of the Auschwitz concentration camp, dated August 25, 1944. From this vantage point, the camp’s integral structures, the prisoner barracks, guard towers, execution wall, gas chamber, and crematorium can be seen.

Through every sculpture, Strassberg reignites our memory of these structures, their history, and the communities affected by them. In beautifully grotesque expression, Fragmented offers a space for viewers to piece together the broken past, grapple with the still-fractured present, and emerge inspired to forge a better future.

Someone has to make this work. It may as well be Roy Strassberg.


Itinerary of Events

Exhibition Reception 
Thursday, May 18, 2023 | 6 – 8 PM

Artist talk at 7PM | Moderated by Judy La Pietra, Assistant Director of the Stan Greenspon Holocaust and Social Justice Education Center at Queens University of Charlotte

RSVP here