Monday, November 30, 2015

UNORTHODOX Jewish Museum's Multigenerational Exhibition: Review by Polly Guerin

Auste, A Mistaken Style of Life, 1987
UNORTHODOX, The Jewish Museum's global, multigenerational exhibition does not comment on Jewish religious orthodoxy or critique it dear readers, but takes its inspiration from the legacy of progressive Jewish thought, in particular the Jewish tradition of dialogue and debates, Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs clarifies this further, "Unorthodox aims to break with cultural and artistic uniformity that has developed over the last century among artists and museums, proposing a nonconformist engagement with art as a means to disrupt the status quo." 
   The large-scale group exhibition features 55 contemporary artists from around the world whose practices mix forms and genres without concern for artistic conventions. Although the artists in UNORTHODOX come from a wide variety of backgrounds and generations, they are united in their spirit of independence and individuality. Through over 200 works, the exhibition highlights the importance of iconoclasm and art's key role in breaking rules and traditions. 
      The human figure is also central to the exhibition often appearing in distorted, anthropomorphic, or hybrid forms. Captivating attention:  Auste's "A Mistaken Style of Life, 1987, acrylic on canvas fantasizes the human figure, while Nick Payne's drawings and watercolors feature grotesque figures, and Mrinalini Mukherjee's sinuous and biomorphic sculptural works. Stephen Goodfellow's VANDALS, 1983, acrylic on canvas is from the Susan and Alan Lichtenstein Collection. Image courtesy of the artist.
Stephen Goodfellow, VANDALS, 1983
Numerous works in Unorthodox  examine social and political values, trauma, religion, an identity. Artists like Margit Anna, whose dreamlike paintings reflect the trauma of the Holocaust, and Xanti Schawinsky's, whose Faces of the War series (1942) was influenced by the destruction and the
militarism of World War II, draw on transformative personal experiences. Several artists channel political activism through their work.
      Many artist in Unorthodox use pop culture, animation, and cartoons to address serious issues around violence, racism, and sexuality. Margaret Harrison tackles gender politics through the use of iconic characters such as Captain America and Playboy pinups.
Installation view of Unorthodox Photo by David Heald    
The exhibition is on view through March 27. 2016. Unorthodox is accompanied by a series of public programs developed by the Jewish Museum and presented in collaboration with the 92nd Street Y. Programs, however, take place at the Jewish Museum. Visit The Jewish Museum website at for further details.

      As you enter the museum you will encounter a new installation by Brazilian-born, New York-based contemporary sculpture artist Valeska Soares, which is on view as part of the ongoing series Using Walls, Floors and Ceilings. Titled TIME HAS NO SHADOWS, the piece features a large, vintage carpet onto which poetic texts are placed, with antique pocket watches hang down from above.  The installation draws on the artist's enduring fascination with the subjectivity of time and language, and investigates the history of Jewish migration and resettlement.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! There's plenty of time to see both exhibitions. Admission is Pay What you Wish on Thursdays from 5pm to 8pm and free on Saturdays. For information on museum hours and admission costs call 212.423.3200. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links to Blogs that resonate with your interest.

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