Jewish Museum’s ‘Unorthodox’ Group Show Will Include, Among Others, Writer William T. Vollmann

William T. Vollmann.COURTESY YOUTUBE

William T. Vollmann.


This fall, the Jewish Museum will play host to a massive group show that “will highlight the importance of iconoclasm and art’s key role in breaking rules and traditions,” in the words of the institution. It is, quite logically, called “Unorthodox.”

The artists included are “marginalized figures” and “beyond the mainstream,” said Jens Hoffmann, the Jewish Museum’s deputy director, who organized the show with Daniel S. Palmer and Kelly Taxter. “It’s a whole group of people making artwork that doesn’t fall into any category one would apply to making art.”

On view in the museum will be work by pictorialist William Mortensen–whom Ansel Adams once referred to as “the antichrist”–the pioneering feminist Margaret Harrison, the musician Brian DeGraw, (who, for what it’s worth, was in the 2008 Whitney Biennial as a member of the band Gang Gang Dance), the Chicago artist Diane Simpson, recently re-emerged in the last few years from relative obscurity in New York after her first solo show here in over three decades, and (making his museum debut) the novelist William T. Vollmann, a National Book Award winning author whose last work was a series of photographs of himself in drag and who will publish a new book, about the Nez Perce War, in July. (There are also a few slightly more familiar characters to those who follow the art world, for instance Jamian Juliano-Villani, the young and prolific painter who recently had a solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, where Hoffmann also moonlights as a curator, and Tommy Hartung, who will have an installation at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles this summer.)

Hoffmann said since his arrival at the Jewish Museum in 2012, the institution has frequently attempted to revisit artists, both contemporary and historical, who are not necessarily part of the art world’s accepted canon–or are at least under-appreciated. This resulted in a recent retrospective for the illustrator and graphic novelist Art Spiegelman, and a show that put the work of Lee Krasner alongside Norman Lewis.

“Unorthodox,” Hoffmann said, is not a comment on the Jewish religion–it’s really just a pun. “You do a show at the Jewish Museum called ‘Unorthodox,’ it might be seen as funny, or to some people it might be seen as a provocation, but it’s also kind of hard to keep yourself from going there,” he said.

He added that the artists included in the show “don’t have any particular agenda in the art world.” Asked to elaborate, Hoffmann said, “I’ve worked in the art world for 20 years, and now I feel like an old grandfather. One of the really big things that has changed in that time is the commercialization of the art world. I don’t just mean the galleries that show the same product, but also how museums operate. We have so many restraints as well. How do we title a show? How do we bring people in the door? We want them to come in, to eat in the café, to spend money in the shop. And so we’re afraid of taking risks, and we need to see the potential for art to take risks and break outside the mold. So ‘Unorthodox’ is a kind of proposal for doing that.”

Full “Unorthodox” artist list:

  • Margit Anna (1913 – 1991, b. Hungary)
  • Austé (b. 1952, USA)
  • Clayton Bailey (b. 1939, USA)
  • Brian Belott (b. 1973, USA)
  • Meriem Bennani (b. 1988, Morocco)
  • Adolfo Bernal (1954 – 2008, b. Columbia)
  • Dineo Seshee Bopape (b. 1981, South Africa)
  • Michael Buthe (1944 – 1994, b. Germany)
  • Tony Cox (b. 1975, USA)
  • Olga de Amaral (b. 1932, Colombia)
  • Brian DeGraw (b. 1974, USA)
  • Marie-Louise Ekman (b. 1944, Sweden)
  • Brenda Fajardo (b. 1940, Philippines)
  • Valeska Gert (1892 – 1978, b. Germany)
  • Stephen Goodfellow (b. 1953, United Kingdom)
  • Zachary Harris (b. 1976, USA)
  • Margaret Harrison (b. 1940, United Kingdom)
  • Tommy Hartung (b. 1978, USA)
  • Lubaina Himid (b. 1954, Tanzania)
  • Nadira Husain (b. 1980, France)
  • Januario Jano (b. 1979, Angola)
  • Jamian Juliano-Villani (b. 1987, USA)
  • Cyrus Kabiru (b. 1984, Kenya)
  • E’wao Kagoshima (b. 1945, Japan)
  • Gülsün Karamustafa (b. 1946, Turkey)
  • Keiichi Tanaami (b. 1936, Japan)
  • Július Koller (1939 – 2007, b. Slovakia)
  • Jiri Kovanda (b. 1953, Czech Republic)
  • Amadeo Luciano Lorenzato (1900 – 1995, b. Brazil)
  • Boris Lurie (1924 – 2008, b. Russia)
  • Alice Mackler (b. 1931, USA)
  • f.marquespenteado (b. 1955, Brazil)
  • Naito Masatoshi (b. 1938, Japan)
  • Park McArthur (b. 1984, USA)
  • Jeffry Mitchell (b. 1958, USA)
  • William Mortensen (1897 – 1965, b. USA)
  • Mrinalini Mukherjee (1949 – 2015, b. India)
  • Hylton Nel (b. 1941, Zambia)
  • Lydia Okumura (b. 1948, Brazil)
  • Bundnum Óhefð (b. 1996, Iceland)
  • Nick Payne (b. 1982, USA)
  • Bunny Rogers (b. 1990, USA)
  • David Rosenak (b. 1957, USA)
  • Erna Rosenstein (1913 – 2004, b. Austria)
  • Xanti Schawinsky (1904 – 1979, b. Switzerland)
  • Max Schumann (b. 1965, USA)
  • Leang Seckon (b. 1970, Cambodia)
  • Diane Simpson (b. 1935, USA)
  • Philip Smith (b. 1952, USA)
  • Jeni Spota (b. 1982, USA)
  • Amikam Toren (b. 1945, Israel)
  • Endre Tót (b. 1937, Hungary)
  • William T. Vollmann (b. 1959, USA)
  • Lionel Ziprin (1924 – 2009, b. USA)

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