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Unorthodox Presents Work by 55 Contemporary Artists

This November, the Jewish Museum will present Unorthodox, a large-scale group exhibition featuring 55 contemporary artists from around the world whose practices mix forms and genres without concern for artistic conventions. Though 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 will highlight the importance of iconoclasm and art's key role in breaking rules and traditions. Organized by Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs, Leon Levy Assistant Curator Daniel S. Palmer, and Assistant Curator Kelly Taxter, Unorthodox will be on view from November 6, 2015 through March 27, 2016.

"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," said Jens Hoffmann. "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."

Numerous works in Unorthodox examine social and political values, trauma, religion, and identity. Artists like Margit Anna, whose dreamlike paintings reflect the trauma of the Holocaust, and Xanti Schawinsky, whose Faces of War series (1942) was influenced by the destruction and militarism of World War II, draw on transformative personal experiences. Several artists channel political activism through their work, including Boris Lurie, Holocaust survivor and founder of the highly political No! art movement, and Dineo Seshee Bopape, whose multimedia work addresses South Africa's legacy of apartheid. The human figure is also central to the exhibition, often appearing in distorted, grotesque, anthropomorphic, or hybridized forms. This includes Mrinalini Mukherjee's sinuous and biomorphic sculptural works, Nick Payne's drawings and watercolors featuring grotesque figures, Diane Simpson's human-scale sculptures that seamlessly shift from body to architectural form, and William T. Vollmann's painterly depictions of his female alter ego. Contrasting with this subjective, representational style are works that revel in pattern and geometry. These objects, often made with natural materials, conflate hierarchical distinctions between high art and craft, while referencing storytelling and folk traditions. Examples include the sewn and woven images of artist and former professional skateboarder Tony Cox, Philippine artist Brenda Fajardo's works using indigenous materials that recall her country's visual and oral storytelling traditions, and Christina Forrer's tapestries blending elements from Swiss folklore and historical European tapestry with contemporary pop and street culture. Many artists 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, Meriem Bennani's animations explore Muslim cultural taboos, and Jamian Juliano-Villani's surreal paintings distort familiar images from pop culture and comics.

For information on The Jewish Museum, the public may call 212.423.3200 or visit the website at

Photo credit: Jirí Kovanda

Hanging Sleeves, Hiding Hands, made in collaboration with Eva Koťátková, 2013

Performance and object

Dimensions variable

Courtesy of the artist and Wallspace, New York

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