Please take just a few minutes to share your thoughts with us about this exhibition!
Here’s what some JM visitors had to say about Off the Wall…
“Fascinating! [Melissa Shiff's Postmodern Jewish] Wedding is wonderful juxtaposition of modern and meaningful tradition.” –Gertrude Levy
[On Melissa Shiff] “Fabulous imagery, thank you for sharing your gift.” –G. Jara Marinwood
Â ”What a wonderful and generous idea to allow the public to watch artists during the process of creation and let them discover how hard it is…art is love.”
“Great and fun and interesting!” –Robert
“Exciting…although I don’t think I understood it so well!” –Elise, Stockholm
“Inspired to create–thank you.” –Arlene
“Color at last!” –Lisa, Darien, CT
“Fabulous. All art classes in NYC schools especially Hebrew Day Schools from elementary school and older should be exposed and INSPIRED by the CREATIVITY.” –MSW, Englewood, NJ
“For Levi Okunov: It was great meeting the artist–you are very creative and lovely. Good luck” –Miriam and Zelda
“Re: Socalled, the tunes are incredible…keep up the good work!” –Alex
“What a wonderful visual experience, and what a wondeful interactive experience!” –Ellen
“Off the wall indeed. Keep doing this.”
“To Levi and the curators from The Jewish Museum: Fabulous. My compliments on an excellent show.” –Prof. S. Gradman
Thank you to all our visitors for your helpful feedback!
The Off the Wall Team
Jennifer Bleyer, founding publisher of Heeb and now a NY Times staff writer, has a wonderful piece about Levi Okunov up on Nextbook:
Okunov is seen as a model not just for having transcended his story, but for having incorporated it into a larger story without abandoning it completely. The standard narrative of lapsed religious Jews (or any Jews, for that matter) is that they are forever suspended in inner turmoil and guilt. This is the narrative popularized by the Nathan Englanders and Shalom Auslanders of the world, and especially beloved by secular Jews for confirming a smug fantasy that religion is oppressive and unhealthy.
But Okunov does not seem fraught with existential angst, perhaps because he has a loving relationship with his family. Although his parents were distressed when he first left the fold, they now have a close relationship with him, speaking with Okunov on the phone regularly and always welcoming him home. His mother believes that he is somehow saving souls through his work and has said she would eagerly attend one of his fashion shows if there were a divider separating men and women.
Okunov seems to find nothing contradictory about being a fashion designer and bon vivant who spontaneously breaks into Yiddish song and still considers himself a Hasid, if not in practice then certainly in spirit. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about him is that in his mind, everything is OK. It might seem incongruous from the outside, but to Okunov, juggling the pieces of his seemingly disparate identities feels perfectly fine.
Levi Okunov launched his Fall 2008 Collection at the Closing Night Party to an enthusiastic, sweaty crowd. Levi drew inspiration from the Museum’s extensive collection of Torah crowns and Hanukkah lamps. Garment materials include Torah mantle velvet, parchment, hand-painted organza, and parachute fabric silkscreened with Rumi love poetry in English, Yiddish, and Arabic. Kudos to Almog for hair, Linda Mason for makeup, Sascha Ascher and Rita Ackermann for hand-painted fabrics, and Kaethe Wenzel for crowns. Melissa Shiff and Diwon, also artists-in-residence during Off the Wall, collaborated with Levi respectively with projected video mandalas and a live score. Afterparty included performances by Diwon (premiering “That Yemenite Kid,” his Off the Wall project), Smadar, Miriam Zafri, and Y-Love. All photosÂ courtesy ofÂ Adrian Nina.Â More after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »
A SWAT Team of makeup artists, stylists, and entourage took over Levi’s studio/gallery and converted it into a dressing room. Doors to the fashion show officially opened at 9pm, but visitors could take a peek a few hours before as garments were finished and models prepped. Levi’s team included Almog, Sascha Ascher, Tamira Cahana, Joe Madeo, Linda Mason, Reiko Okusa, Hikaru Otsu, Kelly Tabone, the gorgeous girls of Ikon Model Management, and guest model Oksana Baiul. All photos by John Aquino.
Before the Fashion Show and Closing Night Party on March 27, Off the Wall artists and exhibition designers gave presentations at a salon hosted by the Jews and Media Working Group, based at NYU’s Center for Religion and Media. Co-faciliators Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler offered some commentary and questions. Here are notes from my presentation:
Off the Wall was a response to press and scholarly analysis on New Jewish Culture, a phenomenon in which a younger generation of Jews expresses religion and identity in ways that are both earnest and playful, and, at times, transgressive. Over the past five years, much has been written about Jewish music, theater, and publishing, but very little attention paid to visual artists and visual art venues. http://www2.jewishculture.org/publications/research/culturestudy/newsitem.2006-06-01.1732478823
This was an area in which we thought The Jewish Museum could contribute to the discussion.
Check out Diwon and Smadar getting ready for tonight’s big show!
Levi’s makeup artist Linda Mason tested some looks today in preparation for tomorrow’s runway show. Models from Ikon arrived for fittings and surprised visitors to the permanent exhibition Culture and Continuity.
As a textile and installation artist one of my many interests lies in working with the fusion of texts, images and textures of many cultures for creating cloths of compassion.
When Levi asked me to work with him on this project I asked him what was the most important feeling that he wanted to convey for The Jewish Museum. He replied that he was inspired by the Hanukkah lamp collection and he also wanted to create garments based on the Torah’s material culture: the scriptures on parchment, mantles, and crowns. He wanted to convey the idea that the garments are sacred and empowering to whomever wears them. Torah teaches light, joy, creativity, peace, and love.
This 2-week open studio project features 11 artists in fashion, music, performance art and video. One regular admission ticket gets you in Sunday - Thursday to watch works-in-progress, meet artists, and attend concerts, salons, runway show, poetry slam, and parties.