“Look! New Acquisitions”
Exhibition: Thursday 6 July 2017 – Sunday 8 October 2017 open daily for public view
Location: Albertina, Albertina Platz 1, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Sasha Okun is exhibiting five works in this latest group exhibition at the Albertina. The Okun works were acquired by the Albertina during the last twelve months and remain part of the Albertina’s permanent collection.
For the first time, the Albertina is staging an exhibition on two levels of the museum over 2,500 square meters’ floor space host a broad survey of the Albertina’s collecting strategy for contemporary art.
From the over 10,000 works acquired over the past 18 years, around 350 works by 55 artists have been selected for this presentation. Other artists included in this exhibition are:
Sol Lewitt, Jim Dine, William Kentridge, Richard Serra, Robert Longo and Eva Schlegel.
One feature of the museum’s collecting strategy is to acquire groups of works rather than isolated, individual works in order to afford a more nuanced understanding of the artistic ideas and creative principles behind a given oeuvre.
Purchases for the Graphic Arts Collection of the Albertina consist exclusively of drawings and prints. Above and beyond that, however, many artists – conceiving of their output as an indivisible artistic whole—have also donated important paintings to the museum, since they regard drawings, printed graphics, and paintings simply as different forms in which to express the same artistic concepts and ideas.
“A Harmony of Dissonance” — Sasha Okun
Press Preview: Thursday 29th September 2016 – 5pm -9pm
Exhibition: Thursday 29th Sept – Thursday 13th October 2016 open daily for public view
Location: U&I Gallery Auditorium, 7a Howick Place, Victoria, London, SW1P 1DZ
Artso is proud to bring this solo exhibition of Sasha Okun to London. This major presentation of 26 artworks is from a private collection that derives from a largely unseen Artist’s catalogue of 300 works spanning 15 years. The show will feature exceptional large scale works such as a triptych, with several individual works approximating to 3m x 2m in size.
“A Harmony of Dissonance” represents the journey of Sasha’s life through nearly 70 years, his sense of displacement and ‘minority’ status. Born in 1949 in Leningrad, Sasha is a Russian Jew who emigrated to Jerusalem in 1979 where he has worked since.
The art works feature in respected private collections and live with the ‘great artists’ be they modern, impressionist or contemporary, a rare and special trait of Sasha and his work.
Michael Marx, founder of Artso: “The works are reflective of a life displaced. Sasha seems to intentionally study or subconsciously interpret his mind to displace the story or moment his artwork holds. This struck me from when I first met Sasha over a decade ago and why I feel it is important his work is seen and shared. “
Respected international curator, Hagai Segev: “I wanted to be involved in this project from day 1 and am delighted Michael invited me to participate. Rarely would an artist’s career and body of works be kept together ready for delivery and introduction to our Art audience. I identified with the quality and caliber of this collection of works in a similar manner as how Sasha would describe himself – ‘a craftsman’, all of which is apparent when seeing the quality and intellectual depth of his works. Sasha’s intellect is that of a philosopher, visible by the storytelling within his work which reaches beyond the ‘canvas’, albeit the works are executed on wood/board in a fresco manner but with oil paint which lands a very unique and deep feeling to the paintings.”
Commenting on his work, Sasha Okun says: “”The people I’m interested in are ordinary, simple, pot-bellied and aging – in short, just like me. They are far from the idealised 90-60-90. After all, everyone is ultimately a self portrait. What is man? It is the fear of death, vanity, stupidity, greed, lust, pain and so on and along with it nobility, generosity, love and a mind. And a lot of other silly things. All this is a wonderful cocktail that is called human life.”
A current museum show at Petach Tikvah Museum of Art in Israel which opens next month and the forthcoming 2017 Summer Museum show “New Aquisitons” at the Albertina Musuem, Vienna are additional to the inclusion of Sasha’s works in collections such as Russky Museum in St Petersberg Russia and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Sasha Okun is available for interview on the Press Preview night Thursday 29th September 2016 6pm -9pm
email@example.com / Stephan Dowers 07966 189973
Sasha Okun in Conversation
11am-5pm, Saturday 8th October 2016 during Frieze. A brunch and open talk held by Sasha and Hagai Segev with guest academics.
Location, U + I Gallery Auditorium, 7a Howick Place, Victoria, London, SW1P 1DZ
Entry is free
firstname.lastname@example.org / Stephan Dowers 07966 189973
Notes to Editor
Artso was founded by Michael Marx specifically to support Sasha Okun, thus allowing him the freedom to apply his ‘craft’. Artso operates across Europe, Israel and North America.
Further high resolution press images available – email@example.com
“Observationes” by Sasha Okun
Observationes, the exhibition by Sasha Okun at the Chanan Rozen Museum of Israeli Art Ramat Gan is over, but it provided an opportunity to view Okun’s work, which is almost a one-man school of art…Okun contemplates humanity with a distant gaze and a certain empathy, similar to a physician or scientist, sparing nothing from the figures he depicts as eventually “to dust returned.” He does not poeticize suffering or melancholy, nor does he propose any conclusions or suggestions: Okun observes. The 12 new works created over the past two years present viewers with a truly operatic drama….The superb painterly qualities of the paintings link Okun to the European post-Renaissance tradition. Okun’s paintings neither reflect nor imitate. They walk a fine line between caricature and the grotesque, but do not stoop to crudity. His works have been rightly compared to frescoes in terms of the sensation they create. We can think of Giulio Romano’s Hall of the Giants in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua, from the 16th century, or some of the figures in the San Antonio della Florida in Madrid by Goya (1799), both wall paintings full of fantasy and severity. Okun’s observation of the world is pitiless, striving for the essential, to the fundamental reduction of human relations. It is perhaps not a mirror of society, but is sharpened and precise in relation to the pathetic hierarchical perception people have, forever needing someone to be more miserable than they are so they can feel superior.
The Window, Israeli Art by Smadar Sheffi
In the series of paintings from the first decade of the twenty-first century, and certainly in these more recent works, Sasha Okun once again proves himself to be the “Hanoch Levin of Israeli painting”: his persistence in depicting the final act of human life in such a pathetic and humiliating tragicomic light, and at the same time, presenting the absurd human denial of the wretchedness and abjectness of old age and death, could not but remind us of scenes from Levin’s plays…
…Indeed, we cannot but wonder at the rare expertise of the artist, his phenomenal draftsmanship and his understanding of color; we would be hard pressed to find comparable examples in our region… Besides his exemplary control of human anatomy, where Okun succeeds is in his ability to endow the topography of the human body with the gentle qualities of landscapes, and fill the cellulite-riddled skin with delicate, nuanced, picturesque textures. …Okun’s astonishing skill at depicting anatomy, his virtuoso ability to depict the form hovering in space, recall the floating figures rendered by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
…Thirty years later, I once again come face to face with the paintings of Sasha Okun and make a mental note of the great strides this painter has made in the degree of his painterly quality and in his courage to look, without mercy, directly into the eyes of his flesh and blood subjects. For, apart from their painterly quality, these twelve paintings by Okun are literature and drama that dare to confront the “grand themes” on existential and theological planes: this is pittura maggiore, great painting at its best.
…These are “religious” paintings, stern-themed, bitter, contemplative lessons that leave us in a world that is completely and utterly temporal, where a man lives, withers, and dies, without “being in the [God’s] image,” in which all the neo-Platonist pretense to distill the material to the spiritual is nothing but another comic opera.
Therefore, let there be no mistake: this “celebration of the end,” which we have been invited to witness does not separate us—the viewer—from the objects of our derisive gaze. Our smiles are instantly replaced by looks of horror once we realize that we are looking at images of ourselves—if not of ourselves tomorrow, then of ourselves sometime in the future. Thus, the irony of Sasha Okun does not culminate in the way he treats his painted images. His irony permeates us by virtue of the paintings’ dramatic effect. And we, who have been granted a few seconds of comic relief from our own existential predicament while looking with condescension at the fiasco that is represented, have had a quick, painful, and sober awakening: these portraits are our portraits. This nakedness is our nakedness.
From The Human Comedy: “The End of the Road” by Gideon Ofrat
Theatricality is one of the facets of the phenomenon that is generally characteristic of Sasha Okun’s art: his paintings are pronouncedly baroque. It is not just figuratively baroque, i.e. excessive, extravagant and concerned with the physical corporality; it also flows directly from the European tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries. Besides the theatrality that we mention above, Sasha Okun’s art is most clearly baroque due to the artist’s touch. Gleams and sun flecks on breathing, shining skin, knowledge of, but not necessarily adherence to, anatomy, virtuosity of perspectives and movements – all this relegate us to Tiepolo’s frescos and Rubens’ paintings.
The guessing of hints, references to classical motives and plots are a special pleasure for the spectator – a “glass bead game”, a game of associations. Thus, the rays of the sun that permeate the protagonist of “Unsuccessful Escape” and his visible sexual arousal make one recall “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” by Bernini, while the figure of the dead man picked up by an enormous woman resembles Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”. In “Scene in a Swimming Pool”, the figure that is getting out of the water repeats, albeit with changed perspective, that of a boy getting onto the shore in the central work of the Russian 19th century, “The Appearance of Christ to the People” by Alexander Ivanov. Thus, if the dead man is Adam, then the enormous woman who has taken a swing must represent the Creator, and the man who is getting out of the water sees the coming of the Messiah in the light coming from the door – is that right?
This list can be continued but the foregoing makes it possible for us to make certain conclusions. Firstly, rather than direct quotes, one can talk of a contextual hint, a theme-based connection. Secondly, all the roads seem to what is classed as religious art. Is it absurd to assume that in “Observations” we deal with religious paintings? Yes and no. It is not easy to find the “contra”: the actions of the protagonists of the series, who are relaxing in the swimming pool, slapping the buttocks of a woman who snuggles up to them and not without pleasure, or saddling men triumphantly, can seemingly hardly be called religious. If we were to assume this we would be acknowledging that mock lowering and grotesque distortion of the genre is taking place. “Pro” is both the impressive format of the paintings, which is meaningful in itself and implies a high genre. However, those naked middle-aged men with butterfly nets are not entomologists, are they? The woman hovering over the desert and swinging a lurid dead body around her is not doing it just for fun, is she? Should one see in this swinging around the Jewish religious ceremony, “kapparot”, where before Yom Kippur people swing a chicken around above their heads as a sign of redemption, a sacrifice, symbolic transfer of sins? It is disputable and an open question whether the attention with which the women in “Scene in Tel Aviv” bow down over male genitalia, which radiate life, can be seen as sacral. The ambiguousness of the interpretation of the narrative, where the viewer is free to decide what exactly he or she is seeing, is the property of good painting. Either way, what is happening at the level of the narrative is absurd in a burlesque manner, where the sublime and the great is bent with contrived, emphatic pathos.
…The themes and subjects that the artist observes are, albeit grotesquely distorted, very up to date and old as the world at the same time: freedom, power, love. Then again, this is quite a baroque feature where the sublime is expressed through the ugly, truth through falsehood and life through death. The perception of the world as an enormous theatre in which we are the spectators and also the actors, the observers and the observees, also belongs to that era.
…Dialogue with the artistic tradition of the past and echoing it is characteristic of his art and his touch. This dialogue with the paintings of the old masters is masterful technique rather than the repeating of the subjects – this is not a frequent phenomenon in spite of all the modern post-modernist pursuits. It is a case of the hand doing what the head wants rather than the head adapting to what the hand can do. Here is an artist who has a will and moral fibre to refuse to follow the mainstream with its minimalism and asceticism. One can accept or reject what the paintings in the series show; however, the way they are painted speaks of serious professional training and the highest level of artistic skill.
From “Back to Present” by Irina Alter
In his drawings, as well as in his writings, Sasha Okun likes to quote from the history of the arts and literature. In his drawings there is a sensual connection between the Renaissance (for example, Michaelangelo), Romanticism, something from the grotesque of Daumier’s drawings, surrealistic touch (Hanoch Levin) and conceptual approach of our days. This combination is extremely professionally created by a hand of a true virtuoso and the outcome is completely and truly original Sasha Okun.
Shlomo Harpaz, “Zman Mevaseret”
Just as Alice in the Looking Glass world, we are passing along with the artist through the television glassed screen and find ourselves on the other side. Not in a Wonder Land but in a world possessed by the fear of death and loneliness, sexual attraction and fear of aging.
Irina Alter, “Breaking News” Eine Bilderserie von Sasha Okun, www.kunsttexte.de
I am looking at his works and I can’t understand in what magical way, without saying a word, he is telling our story. The story of human beings, with our despair, hopelessness, ugliness, and out thirst of living; and how those works succeed to contain endless compassion, tenderness towards living creatures and landscapes where a mythological performance, indefinable by words, is taking place.
With manifest virtuosity Okun paints vast scenes of what looks utterly strange and extraordinary, yet resonates as deeply familiar and recognizable. His oeuvres …, presents a pitiless, almost raw portrait of “la condition humaine” – the human condition…. Challenging the tyranny of current ideals of beauty, Okun’s images are ageing, deformed, ridiculous characters reclining in what appears to be a godforsaken desert, a void whose borders are the limits of the painting and reality.. Although, strictly speaking, there is no conventional figurative narrative in Okun’s work, with no unity of place and time, he focuses directly on the essential components of the human condition. Okun peels away the subtle layers of denial and detestation, utilizing a rich knowledge of form and color to generate sheer beauty in the background to his figures. This beauty, like a halo, leaves a place for hope, perhaps forgiveness or faith for what is otherwise a godless universe, a theatre of the absurd.
Smadar Sheffi, Sasha Okun: Theatre of the Absurd
There is a mystery in Okun’s style. First of all? In spite of apparent ‘familiarity’ of his language. There is a sensation of shock, of surprise, as if he is turning the tradition itself upside-down. Okun continues the classical tradition – from the art of Pompeii to Renoir – … Ft the same time, Okun is in contradiction with this exact tradition, for many of his nudes are anti-erotic/ As a matter of fact, they are nothing more than a landscape, where folds of flesh hills of muscles? Stretched strings of tendon and brows turn into a landscape with characteristic features of its terrain, topography and plans… According to Swift, for a fool life is a tragedy, for a wise man – a comedy. In the oeuvre of Okun? Who sees a human both as a fool and a wise man, ” The Divine Tragicomedy” of its own kind unfolds… As a matter of fact, every one of Okun’s works is a detail from enormous mural of the Last Judgment depicting a tiny lost human soul on a sorrowful journey that has collided with the horror of Reality
Emanuel Amrami, “The Secret of the Master”
Okun’s academic approach is time-consuming on any scale, yet no matter how refined his technique and how long his process, there is something eternally raw about his subjects. The careful painterly attention he pays to each physiological detail brings his grotesque images to discomforting life. One is caught between a fantasy and reality that are both fragile and overpowering, unbelievable and all too familiar. “We’re living in a transitional crisis on the order of the transition from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages,” says Okun. “Our time declares individualism to be one of its main values, but for some reason this ‘individualism’ all points in a single direction.” Okun likes his spot on the fence. He was born in Russia, but has spent half of his life in Israel. He speaks Hebrew well, but cannot consider it his mother tongue. What he paints could only be painted here, yet he considers his cultural motherland to be Italy. “I’ve said it elsewhere,” he explains. “I was born in the 20th century and live in the 21st. But I’ll die in the 16th.” He doesn’t even try to follow the trends. “You can lie to others, but it’s better to tell yourself the truth.” He does what he wants, and it’s enough for him that there are some people interested in this. There are projects he’d like to undertake – like a large-scale fresco – but “it requires a large budget, and it’s no longer possible to have slaves.” “I may not be able to do everything I want,” he says, “but I’ll die knowing I’ve lived my own life.”
David Stromberg, “Jerusalem Post” from December 5,2008
It is impossible for the observer to stop gazing at the manifestation of the creative force of the figurative images. The graphic accuracy, worthy of admiration, together with most impressive colorfulness, turn the images and their situations into an epic myth, and leave the observer astonished and amazed by their power.
Shlomo Har-Paz, “Zman Mevaseret”
Empty Sex while holding to the remote control Sasha Okun’s exhibition presents merely eight large paintings, paintings which grip the viewers, as if trapping them into their space. Okun is not interested to entertain, nor in making the viewing a pleasurable experience, he is seeking this time, it feels, to pass on an urgent message: namely, something relating to our body and, mainly to the soul it contains, is totally defective. Such assertive statements, without the space for breadth to facilitate irony, or the occasional release which creates aesthetic beauty, could easily succumb into simplicity and reduce the art into illustration; but not in Okun’s exhibition. His work troubles, has presence and relates in a most interesting way to the best in international figurative painting as much as to the Israeli one. Okun immigrated to Israel from St. Petersburg in 1979 and, in many aspects, he is a successful migration story. He has been teaching in Bezalel since 1986 and has held many one man shows and participated in many group exhibitions. Despite it all, he remains to a considerable extent, an artists’ artist. His painting is steeped in European traditions, those of the past and those of the present. Especially apparent are the parallels to the paintings of Lucian Freud and to no lesser extent, to these of Janie Savel, both British. Also here are direct influences of Goya’s grotesque works. Okun paints in oils on chipboard panel in a technique resembling frescoes. He is a direct exponent to the Italian mannerism traditions the likes of the “Long Necked Madonna” of Peremeginino, the later paintings of Pontormo and also the later Michelangelo, as in the Sistine Chapel and after. Okun’s images are reclining characters, who first appear as if painted in the desert, in a place governed by the void; barren land without growth, objects and any other life besides the images; space which it borders are the limits of the painting and infinity. These are ageing deformed images, ridiculous, void of any rational proportions. All are in their nakedness, and their nakedness is the least sexy or erotic imaginable. More than that, it is indicating intimacy or openness in expressing vulnerability, lack of meaning and poverty; it feels like the spirit of Chanoch Levine is hovering over the exhibition. Especially challenging are the paintings of the couples. Okun draws sexual scenes which could have been regarded as daring in any other painting, but here they merely serve to polarise the feeling of nothing, the emptiness that is the true subject of the exhibition. In one of the paintings is depicted a couple in a sexual act against the background of what appears to be a stage design resembling a red sky, on a layer which is something between a creased bed sheet and a desert; Okun is transmitting in it the depth of boredom, a total indifference of the two bodies; of the woman resting on her stomach and the man who is coming on her from behind. The gaze of the viewer, which is wandering in a quest for some sign of desire, is focusing finally on the object held in the woman’s hand: with a closer scrutiny, it turns out to be a television remote control; the control also explaining the forward gaze of the woman directed to the television set which is outside the picture. This remote control is reappearing in all the paintings of the couples. The television screen is the objective reality, the alternative here and now of these images, the huge vacuum which sex is making a faint effort to fill. In another painting is seen an elderly, naked man. His huge belly is bulging in front of him, standing spread legged in what appears to be a theatrical depiction of a brothel with red curtains and cubicles opening one to the other. Here, it appears that Okun is making a kind of a parody of the postures of haughty war lords; at the same moment in which the man is referring vainly and masterly to the people or the place in front of him, it turns out that also in his hand, as in the hand of the images indulging in empty sex, is a remote control. The remote control is a symbol for contact and illusory control in a reality which is always elsewhere.
By Smadar Shefi, “Ha’aretz”
Although I usually refrain from making any clear recommendations, this time I am going to act beyond my habits by saying that I highly recommend visiting “Artist’s House” and seeing this amazing exhibition.
Yiftach Or’ad, “Kol Ha’ir”
These remarkable oils of a naked middle-aged couples in flagrante are at once moving and an object lesson in classical oil painting. They aren’t about sex but about the survival of love – or the illusion of love… …these large, untitled oils on plywood panels are important as paintings, particularly in an Israeli context replete with conceptual banalities. …Everything about these oils looks right because of Okun’s fine sense of composition. … The union of figurative and abstract elements appears effortless. There are two ways to visually enjoy these oils. First keep your distance and take in the whole panorama from a distance of two to three meters. Then stick your nose in the work and admire the various types of brushing, the thin overlays of pigment and the tricks of texture. Nothing is out of control.
Meir Ronnen, “Jerusalem Post”
Okun’s multi-layered technique expresses truthfully the heavy weight of his themes. Contrary to the classical nude of Ingres, Rubens or Greek sculpture, Okun’s nude is not perfected, smooth or inviting. It’s destorted, scratched, damaged. In spite of Okun’s claims to Renaissance influences (present in the postures and technique), the figures in his paintings remind of Lucien Freud or Francis Bacon. The bodies are stout plump, material. The body as flesh and sanctuary of the secular… Okun is a real diamond.
Gilad Meltzer, “Ediot Ahronot”
Okun presents a serious of portraits which might have been based on specific characters, but they become archetypal: Woman, Man, Baby. His paintngs are of single figures,always tortured and scorned at by his merciless brush. At the closing of a century mat brought to life the most horrific representations of the human body (from Picasso, through Francis Bacon and up to Maliew Barney) one can hardly call Okun a radical, but he certainly manages to instill in the viewer a sense of discomfort. This discomfort is a result of double mearung.On the one hand, Okun lays his figures on a background reminiscent of a dry and slightly crumbling mural, the kind of setting that winks at the viewer,promising him an encounter with a familiar and secure past (in some of his paintings thre Is an absolutely conscious reference, or so it seems, to Renaissance painters like Mantegna: such a painting is “Andy M.,” which relates to Mantegna’s “Lying Jesus” though, Okun’s images themselves are almost as pathetic as Hanocfa Levin’s characters: large droopy figures, caught inside their own flesh, both aware and in denial of their screaming ugliness. And since clearly unflattering depictions of male figures are quite scarce these days,Okun”s male portraits turn out to be very conspicuous. “Man Taking Off Underpants” or “Man Lying” are bitter and penetrating portraits. Setting his work against Lucian Freud’s male nudes (especially his nude series from the late Eighties and early Nineties), emphasizes just how much Okun dwarfs and ridicules his large figures, which come through as pathetically and clumsily naked. In the work of an artist we can witness a game of estrangement from and attraction to the local art scene. Okun has been working here for over 20 years now, and his paining is very different from what we generally see in IsraeLHowever, his affinity to Yosef Hirsh (one of the older and more respected Israeli artists), especially in terms of drawing, is obvious. …This exhibition gives us a good opportunity to explore artistic enterprises which are for the most part interesting, especially the paintings of Okun, which should be taken as one further engaging facet of the figurative revival in Israeli painting.
Smadar Shcffi, “Ha’aretz”
Sasha Okun, the beneficiary of a sound academic training in his birthplace, is a master draftsman as well as a painter muralist and sometime message artist and satirist His virtuoso larger-than-life graphite drawings of babies now on view verge on the grotesque, for these tots appear to turn into old men before our eyes. This is not just a case of cute newborns resembling Winston Churchill. It appears to be a reminder that no sooner are we born to life than we are surrounded by death, or the decay that leads to it Whatever the case, Okun’s drawings are complete works of art, superbly composed and lit in chairascuro, with the tonal effects on the body and in the background making a satisfying play of lights and darks that suggests depth while also remaining on the picture plane. Okun draws partially in tone, employing a fine pencil to accent a few contours and details, all with commendable restraint.
M. Ronen, “Jerusalem Post”
What is most fascinating and exciting about this painting is the sensation that behind this art stands a great and courageous man of philosophical and moral stature not seen here for a long time.
Albert Swissa, “Kol Hair”
Through bis tecnique, the virtuoso Sasha Okun fuses imagination and realism, symbolism and naive simplicity, subtle humour and a well-balanced dosage of classical teachings of Western tradition and Russian icon paintings, together with what seems to be an uncontrollable touch of Jewish culture…
Hanah Kopler, „4*4“, Nb 57
Alexander Okun has gained a fine reputation for charmingly eccentric pseudo-altarpieces containing small objects, human figures and animals. The sources he calls up are amazingly diverse, ranging from Flemish and Baroque painting, Russian icons, early Picasso figures and characters plucked from Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market His latest piece in the same vein, nine meters high, made from papes, plastic and painted wood, is the jewel in the crown of his new sprawling installation. The Gate of Settlement”, a work which takes a satirical look at the materialistic and venal concerns of contemporary society. Okun’s relief is based on the facade of a Gothic cathedral, but its traditional rose window is replaced by a circular table set out for a meal (symbol of gluttony?), while the niches usually reserved for sculptures of saints and martyrs are occupied by 17 gods of Okun’s devising: among diem, Che God of Government depicted as a beast of prey; and the God of the People as an edifice made from kebab skewers, newspapers and cassettes.
Angela Levine, “Jerusalem Post”
The highlight of this show and enjecting some humor, is Alexander Okun’s delightful baroque altarpiece, a paean to Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market made some time ago, which is accompanied by pastel drawings of remarkable quality.
Angela Levine, “Jerusalem Post”
Large and marvellous pencil drawings by Russian-trained Alexander Okun. They are starting in both image and technique. …He brings to these remarkably fine and entertaining monochrome drawings… his personal vision and, above all, brilliant touch and mastery of tonal values.
Meir Ronnen, “Jerusalem Post”
Okun, a virtuoso draftsman, is represented by 5 large paintings in oils on plywood. Each depicts a single image of a man, woman or child, placed centrally or to one side of his composition. In his best pieces, the background to these figures is neutral and amorphous, with dry application of paint giving the effect of a weathered mural. As in the past, Okun adopts an anti-classical, grotesque approach to the human figure, opting for ugly, disturbing poses. Employing a yellowish flesh palette, he paints bodies sprawling on wrinkled sheets or crawling on all fours, their forms recalling the haunchers or carcasses of animals. Many of the people that Okun depicts appear to hover between life and death. His most terrifying panting is that of a baby with the body of a shrunken old man lying in a contorted position, a noxious fog seeping through the bars of his crib-cum-bier. Okun’s irreverent attitude to the human figure reaches a climax with ins portrait of a man taking off his underpants. Is this image (and others) Okun’s tongue-in-cheek response to classical depictions of women such as those of Ingres’s bathhouse scene or Cezanne’s Bathers ? A personal favorite among this range of superb paintings is the picture entitled “Man Cleaning His Teeth” in which a nude figure, toothbrush in hand is screaming in agony or ecstasy. A rewarding presentation.
Angela Levine, “Jerusalem Post”
“Out Of The Frame” is the first of two group shows at this venue in which the paintings are not unframed or off the wall, but simply out of context with each other, unconnected in style, form and approach. It’s worth going to see this first effort just to view four large and marvellous pencil drawings by Russian trained Alexander Okun. They are startling in both image and technique: one of a huge, antlike insect is a “tour de force”. The other three, a fox with the face of a Tasmanian Devil; a cat: and a dove, are all remarkable, the handling of the latter Is particularly notable.
>M. Ronen, “The Jerusalem Post Entertainment Magazine”
Combinations of concepts from Rauschenberg, Caravaggio and Eastern Orthodox icon painting confront one in a wall-size altar piece by Russian-trained Alexander Okun. Constructed like a revolving stage set on three levels, Okun implants realistically painted figures, collage materials, found objects and esoteric symbolic objects in a sweeping narrative. Behind it all there seems to be an interaction of saints and sinners, of the fortunate and unfortunate, of hope and despair. …Okun’s major pictorial thrust is a self contained, all4nclusive European ghetto, a vivid world full of the parables, fables and legends immortalized by the likes of Shalom Aleichem and Bashevis Singer. His inclusive “inside-outside” shtetl although obscure in respect to many images is manageable, compared to a second, enigmatic Baroque niche full of contorted figures, hazy gargoyles and several wooden planks fanning out in front of the painting. Marvellously conceived food paintings are also on view.
Gil Goldfine, “Jerusalem Post”
This exhibition reflects a transcendental dimension by way of contradiction and the grotesque… The artist hovers between the fields of sculpture, painting, theatre design and decoration, traditional themes and existential messages of today-and all accomplished with a light smile of wisdom…
Dorit Kedar, “Al-Ha’mishmar”
Okun’s mastery of brush and pencil, together with his three-dimensional structures and creative ideas are absolutely amazing. It is a long time since we have seen in Tel-Aviv art galleries such a high level of artistic ability. Okun proves his mastery of all tools and modes of artistic expression in manner which stimulates the senses as much as the intellect…
His Blerental, “Globus”
Haim Kedman, “Olam Ha’omanut”, Nb 28
Okun is at the same time a poet and a visual alchemist, an artist whose strange admixtures are as much experiment as they are song. Mock heroic and humdrum, enthusiastic and laconic, superficial and supernatural, Okun’s pictorial combinations have an immediate effect on the viewer, a grasping of one’s interest …Besides possessing a flair for invention, syncopation of iconography and a secretive sense of Jewish historical perspective, Okun draws beautifully in a light classical manner and paints with a flair for the spirited brush gesture and veiled hue. His art belongs to no contemporary stream no convention and groups do not gather round his peculiar style.
Gil Goldfine, “Jerusalem Post”
what Okun succeeds to produced out of such simple material as a pencil deserves to be labelled a work of virtuoso…
Miriam Yizraeli, “Kol Hair”
Here is a painter of great artistic value. This time he shows us an unknown aspect of his work: the pencil drawings. They show the rare pictorial qualities, carry an air of monumental strength in spite of the restriting characteristics of this “commom” medium. The very best of Okun’s works are real diamonds. They display a combination of creative invention and realism, metaphor and straightforwardness with a sophisticated mythical irony. All this is expressed in an independent and well-formed style which is wise and mature enough to be able to combine in the right proportion, the best of Western classical tradition with delicate hints of Jewish culture…
Nitza Malinyak, “Ha’aretz”
Sasha Okun is the most interesting phenomenon in our artistic life. I could even say: one of its most amusing adventures. …If Israel is destined to have a life of eternity, and I believe that with all my heart,-then, just as Market’s landscapes, Degas’s coffee houses and Cezann’s fruits remain in the atmosphere of Paris, in the coming hundred years, Okun’s ancient squares, open street markets and narrow sidestreets will continue to pervade the atmosphere of Israel…
Maya Kaganskaya, “22”, Nb 48
There is something dazzling in the light of his paintings. He is like looking directy at the sun… He takes from the distant Past as well as from the Present. But actually he belongs to no time. He is what I once have called a meta-time artist.
Gidon Efrat, “The Voice of Jerusalem”