january strawberrries
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Ikona Gallery, Campo di Ghetto, Venice
International Holocaust Memorial Day
January 2012

Alejandra Okret, "January Strawberries"
Curator: Ziva Kraus
 
Alejandra Okret's January Strawberries Glisten with their Juicy Scent

The sublime, bittersweet, and tender relationship that Alejandra Okret exalts in her artist book entitled, Frutilla, Fragole, Strawberries טקס תות, is brought to the forefront in the exhibition of that book, along with her paintings and family photographs in this Venetian venue.  Okret's works fuse with the memoirs of her father Enrique (Heinz).  Their symbiotic relationship emerges artistically, both visually and poetically. 

Sifting through Enrique's memoirs, Okret unearthed an almost supernatural explanation for her fascination, joy, and affinity with the luscious, ruby fruit of her childhood.  Her father recounts his similar fondness for the sweet, sensual berry, and thus her journey to this tome begins. 

Okret intersperses her sumptuous but often grave paintings with Enrique's gripping account of his escape from Vienna in 1938.  Okret creates an Artist Book which reflects the "intimate spiritual affinity between artist and poet".   The memoirs, in and of themselves, are baffling and yet sadly familiar.  Her father's personal, individual photos and recollections are rendered universal.  Their truth, inescapable.

Strawberries, as Okret explains in her introduction, were a motif of her Uruguayan childhood.  The thrill and impatience the innocent fruit embodied was intensified in the family's own intimate "ceremony".  Like the Japanese Tea Ceremonies of yore, the Okrets created a singular haiku out of the simple act of eating this favored treat.  Likewise, Okret's paintings emanate their own poetry, their own song.
 
Like his daughter, Enrique was an artist, a theater actor.  Okret unwittingly paints circles in the first decade of the twenty first century, as Enrique appears in Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1960.   While Enrique narrowly escapes Europe, Okret paints her own scurry toward the evasive, transitory fruit.   Both are tied up in the bureaucracy which is our collective world and attempt to escape to their own redemption, as surreal as the patriarch, Alfred's, stories, but also imperative, via art. 

As the Breslov Rabbi wrote, "make a habit of dancing, dance will erase your pains and will melt your worries."   Thus, Okret paints her dance constructions, time and again aching for the salvation that would and come in her family's Uruguayan retreat.  The hope that the dancing embodies is a mending of the family soul, a reconstruction, so to speak, of the broken. 

Okret and her sisters' childhood, Enrique's childhood, Aunt Lucy's childhood all pulse with inherent delight.  The unspoken, however, weaves itself through merry truth.   Okret's ability to find elation in the face of unspeakable historical facts is her strength.  Like her leaping dancer, Okret has blind faith in reparation.   She tints the facts, the indisputable photographs with strawberry nectar.   Her artistic intervention, printing the "ready-mades" on cotton paper to add depth and inform the photos with an etching-like quality, renders this exhibition even more personal and, therefore, satiated with truths.    The pictures soak up the fuchsia dye, reveling in its succulence.

Enrique talks of his childhood "magical world";  Okret adopts his magic wand and creates an enchanting world of her own.  In it, art is hope, art is paradise and January Strawberries glisten with their juicy scent.

Audrey Sklar Levy
Sklar Levy is an independent art writer and a long-time collector of Okret's works.

[1] Ofrat, Gideon, "The Work of Art in the Age of Aura-Endowed Reproduction," in: Artist Books: Jerusalem Print Workshop, 2011, 12. 
[1]See 130, 131
[1]See 41: Strawberries – run away, 2000. Acrylic, formal stamp with
my personal details and ink on tracing paper, 49x34.5 cm
[1]See 144:  Dance Construction, 2008. (Written in Hebrew are the words
by Breslov Rabbi, “make a habit of dancing, dance will erase
your pains and will melt your worries”). Pencil, ink and acrylic
on cotton paper, 80x117 cm
[1] See 83: Photo from my grandparents’ Austrian album. Liesel,
Mittersill, 1937; 86: Photo from my grandparents’ Austrian album. Liesel,
Uncle Sigi’s daugther, Vienna 1938.  Every time that my
grandmother saw this photo she cried “meine mיdiele,
meine pupele Liesel”
[1] See 234: Dance Construction – Leap, 2008. Pencil, ink and acrylic on
cotton paper, 80x117 cm
[1] See 54
 

Alejandra Okret, January Strawberries
Hagai Segev
     
Old family photos often remain concealed within the yellowing pages of moldy albums. Alejandra Okret has decided to take her family's old photo albums out of the attic and bring to light the unique story of her father and his family who escaped Vienna at the right time - just before it became impossible. 
 Beyond the relatively simple act of taking the albums out and revealing their old black and white photos, Okret has done an art action of her own. As a painter, she has added her own colors and lines to the photos.  By doing so, she herself became immersed in the original photo documents and transformed them into a new work of art relating to the history which unfolds through the images.
 Hence, this act of involvement or change is one of transforming a photographic object into a personal work of art.  This is a most intimate connection, of the highest level, bonding and meshing together her father and his life story, with the contemporary tale of Alejandra the artist.
 An old-new story of a father-daughter relationship is created.  In parallel, Okret’s fresh take on the family recollections makes them relevant and conveys them to the public at large through her personal artistic act.  Okret has also produced an artist’s book, "Frutilla, Fragole, Strawberries" that connects the two artists (the man of theater and the woman of art) and bridges the gap formed over decades of individual and public history.
 After so many years of concentrated endeavor, what began as an intimate artistic action became a public work of art that is to be examined using additional criteria - critical, historical, humanistic and cultural.
Hagai Segev is a senior curator and art critic, active in Tel Aviv, who until recently has worked as the Chief Curator of Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People at Tel Aviv University.

 

זיכרונות תצלומי משפחה ישנים וזיכרונות המחשבה
חגי שגב
על התערוכה של אלחנדרה אוקרט בוונציה

לרוב נותרים צילומי משפחה טמונים בין דפיהם הצהובים של אלבומים מעלים עובש. אלחנדרה אוקרט החליטה להוציא לאור את אלבומי המשפחה הישנים שלה מהבוידעם ולחשוף את הסיפור המיוחד של אביה ושל בני משפחתו שברחו מוינה ברגע הנכון, ברגע שלפני האחרון.
מעבר למעשה הפשוט יחסית של להוציא את האלבומים ואת תמונות השחור-לבן שלהם אל האור, עשתה אוקרט מעשה אמנות משל עצמה. כציירת, היא הוסיפה לתצלומים המקוריים, את הצבעים והקווים שלה. כך התערבה בתצלום התיעודי המקורי והפכה אותו ליצירת אמנות חדשה, המתייחסת לסיפור המסופר בתצלום.
מעשה ההתערבות או השינוי הוא אם כן מעשה של הפיכת האובייקט הצילומי למעשה אמנות אישי. זהו חיבור ברמה האינטימית הגבוהה ביותר, יצירת זיקה והאחדה של האב והסיפור שלו עם הסיפור בן זמננו של אלחנדרה הציירת.
כך נוצר סיפור חדש-ישן של יחסי אב וביתו, לצד סיפור של קריאה חדשה של הזיכרון המשפחתי, עדכונו, והעברתו דרך מעשה האמנות האישי אל הציבור הרחב. מעבר למעשה זה המשיכה אוקרט ויצרה ספר אמן שלם המשלב בין שני היוצרים (איש התיאטרון ואשת הציור) ומגשר על פני עשורים של היסטוריה אישית וציבורית.
מה שהחל כמעשה יצירה פרטי, הפך ברבות העשייה ליצירה ציבורית, אותה יש לבחון בכללים אחרים, ביקורתיים, הסטוריים, אנושים ותרבותיים.

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