radical art or tasteless art?

25 Jan

Here’s a little review I wrote recently about a new photography exhibit “Composed: Identity, Politics, Sex” at The Jewish Museum New York, published in The Forward. The images in  the exhibition, described by a fellow visitor at the museum as being “of questionable taste”, are certainly provocative, challenging viewers’ ideas about The Holocaust, Israel and gender roles.

Below is the first part of the review; (feel free to click here to be directed to the full review on The Forward website).

January 25, 2012, 7:00am

Challenging Aesthetics at The Jewish Museum

By Rebecca S

Rona Yefman, ‘Martha Bouke and Andy’s Flowers, Visit at the Museum.’ Courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller Gallery, New York.

Subverted representations of the Holocaust, the Israeli army, and gender roles characterize a new photography exhibit at The Jewish Museum in New York.

“Composed: Identity, Politics, Sex,” showing until June 30, incorporates works by seven artists from Israel, the United States and elsewhere, and challenges viewers’ perceptions by confronting pillars of Jewish identity.

The first work we see in the exhibit, “Martha Bouke and Andy’s Flowers, Visit at the Museum” (2011), by Israeli artist Rona Yefman, sets the scene with its transgressive tone. Here, Yefman portrays Martha Bouke, the female persona adopted by an 80-year-old male Holocaust survivor, posing in front of an iconic Andy Warhol painting. The striking, sexualized figure of the masked, bewigged Bouke, dressed in a pretty dress, bright red tights and matching red lipstick, radically plays with viewers’ expectations of an octogenarian great-grandfather and Holocaust survivor.

In “Stelen (Columns)” (2007-2011), American artist Marc Adelman depicts an uneasy and provocative juxtaposition. During time spent in Berlin, the artist noticed that on one gay dating website, many men posed for their profile pictures at the city’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The photos in Adelman’s installation are a collection of these profile pictures. The structure’s huge concrete slabs or columns are echoed in the grid-formation of Adelman’s photos.

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