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The Jewish Museum Gets 'Unorthodox' for a New Exhibit

Inspired by a rich tradition of dialogue and debate, a large-scale exhibition brings rebellion to the forefront.
November 3, 2015, 8:45pm
Jirí Kovanda, Hanging Sleeves, Hiding Hands, made in collaboration with Eva Koèátková, 2013, performance and object, dimensions variable.  All images courtesy The Jewish Museum.

A large-scale group exhibition showcasing 55 contemporary artists from around the globe “whose practices mix forms and genres without concern for artistic conventions” opens at the Jewish Museum in New York on November 6. The exhibition, cheekily titled Unorthodox, brings together a wide variety of forms and topics to express the importance of individuality, independent spirit, and the key role of art in breaking rules and traditions.


According to Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs, who co-curated the exhibition with Leon Levy Assistant Curator Daniel S. Palmer and Assistant Curator Kelly Taxter, “Unorthodox does not comment on Jewish religious orthodoxy or critique it, but takes its inspiration from the legacy of progressive Jewish thought, in particular the Jewish tradition of dialogue and debate. Unorthodox aims to break with a 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.”

Installation view of Unorthodox, November 6, 2015 - March 27, 2016. The Jewish Museum, NY.  Photo by: David Heald.

The 200 works that make up the exhibition examine global issues including trauma, religion, identity, and social and political values, focusing often on the human figure and the experience of the individual. The mediums range from paintings and photography, to sculpture, ceramics, and everything in between. This “band of multi-generational misfits and iconoclasts [are] working to upend and reinvent traditional artistic techniques and approaches […] motivated by a deep, compelling imperative to subvert traditions and expectations.” The result is a collection of work that is gorgeous and sometimes shocking, exploring difficult issues and proving once more the power and helpfulness of art in confronting them.


Check out some of the works in the exhibition, below:

Boris Lurie, Big No Painting, 1963, oil and paper on canvas, 65 ½ x 85 in. Boris Lurie Art Foundation, New York. © Boris Lurie Art Foundation, New York.

Margaret Harrison, What’s That Long Red Limp Wrinkly Thing You’re Pulling On?, 2009, watercolor and colored pencil on paper, 23 ⅞ x 18 ⅞ in. Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc. New York.  © Margaret Harrison, photograph by Casey Dorobek.

Bunny Rogers, Self-Portrait as Clone of Jeanne d'Arc, 2014, print, artist frame, 14 x 12 x 1.2 in. Collection of Eleanor and Bobby Carye, New York.  © Bunny Rogers, image provided by Société Berlin, Germany

Xanti Schawinsky, The Aviator, from the series Faces of War, 1942, mixed media, watercolor and ink, 28 ⅞ x 21 in. Courtesy of the Xanti Schawinsky Estate, Switzerland, and Broadway 1602, New York. © Xanti Schawinsky, image provided by Broadway 1602, New York

Clayton Bailey, Milker Robot, 1985, repurposed scrap aluminum, chrome, stainless steel, glass, light bulbs, 67 x 20 x 17 in. Courtesy of the artist. © Clayton Bailey

Keiichi Tanaami, Sweet Friday, 1975, 16 mm film animation, 3 min 21 sec. © Keiichi Tanaami, courtesy of the artist and NANZUKA, Tokyo, Japan

Stephen Goodfellow, Vandals, 1983, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72 in. Susan and Alan Lichtenstein Collection. © Stephen Goodfellow.

Erna Rosenstein, Untitled, n.d., mixed media, 6¾ x 5⅛ x 2¾ in. Adam Sandauer and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, Poland. © Adam Sandauer, image courtesy of Adam Sandauer and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, Poland

The exhibition is open to the public November 6, 2015--March 27, 2016 at the Jewish Museum in New York City. A 200-page publication complementing the exhibition includes essays by the co-curators and other members of the forward-thinking art community about the state of modern museums and other concepts of unorthodoxy. Click here for more information.


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