News / Arts & Entertainment

Contemporary Arab Art at NYC’s New Museum

Arab Art Featured at NYC’s New Museumi
X
August 22, 2014 2:10 AM
The first museum-wide show of Arab art in New York City is spread out over five floors at the New Museum, and exhibits work by more than 45 contemporary artists. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the show.
Carolyn Weaver

The first museum-wide show of Arab art in New York City, spread out over five floors at the New Museum, exhibits works by more than 45 artists from 12 countries. Many are animated by a documentary impulse, seeking out new ways to represent realities, but with a “critical approach to image-making,” said associate curator Natalie Bell, who helped organize the show with New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni.

“We found that a lot of artists were thinking critically about whether images are capable of conveying a truth, whether images are transparent, and trying to create works that could convey these ideas," Bell said.

"Here and Elsewhere," as the show is called, opens in the museum's lobby with a photographic mural satirically portraying an ultraluxe, virtually gold-plated hotel in the Arab world. It's by the GCC, a group of artists who take their name from the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Many of the works on display point only indirectly at social and political realities, however. Photographs by Hrair Sarkissian of bland, empty city streets and squares in his native Syria, spaces where public executions were held, seem to ask the question: How did what happened here leave no trace?

Questions of war, immigration and displacement appear throughout the show, as in Moroccan-born artist Bouchra Khalili’s huge videos of maps traced by immigrants and refugees. A film, Infiltrators, by Ramallah-based Khaled Jarrar, documents furtive attempts by Palestinians to bypass the wall that barricades Israel. Jarrar was scheduled to visit New York in July to take part in a panel discussion at the New Museum, but was denied permission by Israeli authorities to travel from the West Bank.

In a video by Lebanese artist Mounira Al Solh, the camera pans over parts of a lamb, slaughtered for a feast, as the narrator considers whether trauma can ever be truly "registered" in the moment, or filmed without exploitation. The film is in part about the trauma of being a refugee, inspired by the million or more Syrian refugees now living in Beirut.

“She’s speaking more poetically about the experience, both linking it to her experience fleeing Beirut for Damascus, during the Lebanese civil war, when she was younger, and also reflecting on her family at that very moment, and these get-togethers they’re having," Bell said.

The videos of Iranian-born artist Rokni Haerizadeh, in contrast, are fable-like, with animal figures painted over the human protestors in news footage of political demonstrations.

A sculpture like a tree made of confetti, by Dubai-based artist Hassan Sharif, is constructed of surplus manufactured goods: everything from copper wires to string to cut-up plastic shoes. Qalandia 2087, a tabletop city model by Hebron-born Wafa Hourani, is a utopian vision of a Palestinian refugee village.

“While it looks very realistic, as a kind of architectural model, it’s also very simple.  And that’s something that interested us also, because it’s a way of reminding us that art can be made with very simple materials," Bell said.

The work of Moroccan artist Mohamed Larbi Rahali is another example. Since 1984, he has drawn, painted and created tiny collages on the insides of matchboxes, a project he calls Omri (My Life).

Most of the artists in the show have not previously exhibited in New York. Bell said many are indifferent to commercial art markets, or of no marketable interest to them. Many also reject the notion of themselves as “Arab” artists. 

The huge size of the New Museum show underlines another point, she added: art from the Arab world today is so diverse that it resists all attempts to categorize it.  

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."