Art student's Holocaust project

By Jessica Elgot, June 24, 2010
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A London art student has used his anger over a US oil company's role in the Holocaust as inspiration for his final project.

Leo Cohen, 23, said his work is a political statement about US Standard Oil, which was linked to IG Farben, the company which produced Zyklon B for the Nazis to use in the gas chambers.

Mr Cohen, a founder member of the Young Jewish Art collective, has built an art installation at Central Saint Martins which includes six pools of water, three of which are black and oily.

The exhibit will be displayed on the rooftop of the art school. Working outside has been a long struggle for Mr Cohen, who has been forced to move heavy tanks of water into place and protect his sculptures from the elements.

Up on the roof, one of the oil pools features piles of gaunt 'bodies' made of black and white tape and cardboard. One has a shower hanging over it, another a sunken oil drum.

The clear pools contain floating flowers in red, white and blue – the colours of the American Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack.

But the flowers have a dual relevance, with blue cornflowers being the symbol of Nazi 'Aryanism', and red poppies the symbols of remembrance.

Mr Cohen said of the bodies he moulded from cardboard and tape: "I wanted to make them look unconventional and alien, different, other, so the viewer becomes disturbed."

He added: "The struggle for acceptance of different kinds of art is symbolic of the struggles Jews have had in gaining acceptance of their own identity by wider society."

The installation opens on June 28.

    Last updated: 4:12pm, June 24 2010