Kosher Nostra – History of Jewish Gangsters in America 1890 - 1980
The history of organised crime in the United States was greatly influenced by Jews. The widely spread myth, especially in Europe, of the predominating Italian Mafia largely concealed the fact that gangsters of Jewish origin had a considerable share in this sinister chapter of the American history. Anybody trying his hand in tracing the history of the American Mafia cannot negate the existence of men such as Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy“ Siegel, Dutch Schultz or Louis “Lepke“ Buchalter who had a determining influence on the doings of the underworld – besides the classic Sicilian “Godfathers“.
In his latest art installation “History of Jewish Gangsters in America“ the artist Oz Almog goes beyond his usual portrayal of people in pictures and words by creating the impressive documentary summary of an entire epoch, both fascinating and deterrent. Without any romanticising tendency and with the perspicacity of an uncoverer the artist deals with this unpleasant part of Jewish history and examines the different actors with all their contradictions: for instance Samuel “Red“ Levine was a cold-blooded contract killer, who was a strict orthodox Jew. Then there was the merciless syndicate boss Louis “Lepke“ Buchalter, who loved his mother more than anything, and was therefore truly respected by the traditionally family-oriented Sicilians. Or the strategic genius Meyer Lansky, who was not only involved in sinister business, but - being proud of his Jewish origin - always supported the concerns of his people.
With this story consisting of painted portraits and detailed texts Oz Almog does not want to convey the image of a “clean war“, but also presents an oppressive picture of life and death in the underworld. With his art installation “him too?? A Chronical of a Cultural Obsession” (400 portraits of Jewish personalities, 1999) Oz Almog landed a mainstream hit, which was initially presented at the Jewish Museum Vienna and was subsequently on view in Israel, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Hungary. After his second installation “Towards the Light of Dawn – Heroes of the Soviet Union”, where Almog abandoned his principle to create art installations with paintings, he now prepares a provocative installation of paintings featuring prominent gangsters of Jewish origin, which will be accompanied by a documentation.
Curators: Oz Almog, Erich Metz