Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s
Grey Art Gallery, NYU
Jan. 14, 2023 - Apr. 4, 2020
Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s explores the development of abstraction in the Arab world via paintings, sculpture, and works on paper dating from the 1950s through the 1980s. By looking critically at the history and historiography of mid-20th century abstraction, the exhibition considers art from North Africa and West Asia as integral to the discourse on global modernism. At its heart, the project raises a fundamental art historical question: How do we study abstraction across different contexts and what models of analysis do we use?
Examining how and why artists investigated the expressive capacities of line, color, and texture, Taking Shape highlights a number of abstract movements that developed in the Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia, as well as the Arab diaspora. Across these regions, individual artists and artist collectives grappled with issues of authenticity, national and regional identity, and the decolonization of culture. Drawn from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, the exhibition features nearly 90 works by a diverse group of artists such as Etel Adnan, Shakir Hassan Al Said, Kamal Boullata, Huguette Caland, Ahmed Cherkaoui, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Rachid Koraïchi, Mohamed Melehi, and Hassan Sharif, among others. On view are works produced by artists from countries including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and United Arab Emirates. Curated and organized by Suheyla Takesh, Curator at the Barjeel Art Foundation, and Lynn Gumpert, Director of the Grey Art Gallery at New York University, the exhibition will be on view from January 14 through April 4, 2020.