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Maymanah Farhat

Mouteea Murad and the Vocabulary of Geometric Abstraction

Mouteea Murad,

In a 1926 manifesto, Kazimir Malevich identified the use of geometry in modern abstract painting as achieving “the zero of form.” This phrase not only describes the absence of recognizable subject matter but also suggests the process of minimizing a composition based on essential pictorial elements. Malevich believed that pure abstraction could provide a departure from the objective world and “concrete visual phenomena,” arriving at art’s intrinsic abstraction and its ...

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The Origins of Dreams: An Interview with Safwan Dahoul

[Detail of Safwan Dahoul's 'Dream 96' (2015). Image copyright the artist. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery.]

Safwan Dahoul’s recent paintings indicate several new developments in his ongoing Dream series, the influential body of work that has distinguished his career. Although the psychologically laden paintings are widely exhibited and collected, little is known about the origins of the series other than the fact that it began as an autobiographical reflection of time but has since grown to represent the mounting devastation and desolation of the Syrian crisis. While I have ...

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The Science of Form: An Interview with Samia Halaby

[Samia Halaby at the Kansas City Art Institute (1966).]

At the 2016 edition of Art Dubai Modern, Samia Halaby will be featured in The Mechanics of Nature, an exhibition organized by Ayyam Gallery that explores historical developments in abstract art through the works of two pioneering Arab painters. Halaby is represented in the exhibition with examples that date from the 1960s to the 1980s, a formative stage of her development, when she arrived at the formal and conceptual bases of her celebrated aesthetic. This period of her ...

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From Fragmentation to Totalization

[Oussama Diab,

For nearly ten years, Oussama Diab has worked through various painting styles, often combining different forms and techniques in a single composition. In neo-expressionist paintings that reimagine Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503-06), for example, Diab repaints the sixteenth-century portrait using the appropriation methods of Pop art while allowing tactile brushstrokes to operate on a similar level of signification. The Beirut-based Palestinian artist—who was born in ...

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Kareem Risan: Archetypes

[Detail of Kareem Risan's

For more than twenty years, Kareem Risan has depicted his surroundings as richly painted surfaces free of temporal or spatial boundaries. Without references to the hermetic space of the canvas (or paper), Risan employs color as a compositional directive. The artist’s varying treatment of paint is emphasized with the opacity or radiance of particular hues, and becomes the primary source of tension in his works. Despite initial disorder, the divergent sections of the ...

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Sami Mohammad: On the Path to Al Sadu

[Sami Mohammad sculpting

Within a few years of joining Kuwait’s Free Atelier in 1959, Sami Mohammad created a collection of paintings and sculptures that would determine the direction of his art over the next five decades. As one of the studio’s first artists, he was given a stipend by the Kuwaiti government that allowed him to focus on developing his artistic practice fulltime. The groundbreaking art space and its associated programs provided Mohammad and his colleagues with an ideal setting—a ...

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New Media and the Spectacle of the War on Terror

[Rheim Alkadhi,

US-based artists of the Arab diaspora who have explored the interventionist potential of new media have often done so within the context of the American spectacle: a reality in which life is reduced to mere representation and social interactions and civic engagement are mediated through mass media and mass consumption. This reduction of life into a flow of imagery that renews itself as it permeates the public realm has been scrutinized in art since the 1960s, when the ...

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Khalvat: Towards Meaning

[Sahand Hesamiyan's Khalvat (metal prototype) (2014). Image copyright the artist. Courtesy of The Third Line gallery, Dubai.

Sahand Hesamiyan’s Khalvat (2014) resembles a futuristic vessel. Composed of a circular shell, the thin ribs that begin at the work’s oculus create a sense of propulsion as they extend into narrow piers. With triangular pieces adjoined to its lattice frame at forty-five degree angles, the projectile sculpture appears to spin in space, defying the spatial and temporal limitations of a stationary object. In several recent works, Hesamiyan selects an element of Islamic ...

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Khaled Takreti: Modern Life

[Khaled Takreti,

Syrian artist Khaled Takreti has spent the greater part of his twenty-year career exploring a personal history that stretches between Beirut, where he was born in 1964; Damascus, where he lived before moving to the United States in his early thirties; and Paris, where he has resided since 2004. The episodic nature of the painter’s oeuvre dates back to the 1990s, when he began to address self-reflexive themes through autobiographical composites. The culled figures of his ...

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A Creative Upsurge; Syrian Art Today (Part Two)

[Detail of Abdul Karim Majdal Al-Beik's

[Syria’s Apex Generation highlights post-uprising art as an introduction to the rich history of painting in Syria. Featuring the works of Abdul Karim Majdal Al-Beik, Nihad Al Turk, Othman Moussa, Mohannad Orabi, and Kais Salman, the exhibition and its accompanying publication explore a new school of painting in the midst of expansion despite the disintegration of the Damascus art scene, its original center. Informed by extensive traditions of expressionism, symbolism, and ...

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A Creative Upsurge; Syrian Art Today (Part One)

[Nazir Nabaa's

[Syria’s Apex Generation highlights post-uprising art as an introduction to the rich history of painting in Syria. Featuring the works of Abdul Karim Majdal Al-Beik, Nihad Al Turk, Othman Moussa, Mohannad Orabi, and Kais Salman, the exhibition and its accompanying publication explore a new school of painting in the midst of expansion despite the disintegration of the Damascus art scene, its original center. Informed by extensive traditions of expressionism, symbolism, and ...

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In Conversation with Nadia Ayari

[Nadia Ayari's

Since the start of her artistic practice over a decade ago, Nadia Ayari has engaged painting and the history of its development with marked intensity and seriousness. Adding to the complexity that one finds in her usage of the medium is her subject matter, which is not easily decipherable; figural but somehow abstracted and simultaneously sensual with tinges of the grotesque. Her “figures” are outwardly peculiar, psychologically laden, and allegorically political—a ...

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Samia Halaby's Radical Abstraction

[Samia Halaby in her studio at Indiana University shortly before receiving an MFA in painting (1962). Image courtesy of the artist.]

Not long after accepting a teaching position at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1964, Samia Halaby decided to abandon the painterly abstraction that she had developed while receiving her artistic training from universities in the Midwest. In search of a new start, she came across a fifteenth-century painting by Flemish master Petrus Christus in the collection of the Nelson Atkins Museum, an unassuming work that would nonetheless change the direction of her art. Virgin and ...

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An Introduction to Kareem Risan's "The Book of Sectarianism"

[Kareem Risan,

The Euphrates is a long procession Cities pat its shoulders as palm trees weep —Sinan Antoon [1] In these ashen years following the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, Kareem Risan has produced over two dozen art books. Created as one-of-a-kind artifacts, some are bound and can be unfolded, expanded, and positioned upright to be viewed in the round, while others are comprised of separate panels amassed in a portfolio or box. During this long period of charting Iraq’s ...

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Saloua Raouda Choucair: Reinventing Abstraction

[Saloua Raouda Choucair,

Saloua Raouda Choucair. Edited by Jessica Morgan. London: Tate Publishing, 2013. One of the many myths of the Western canon is that European modern artists invented abstraction. Despite the known existence of pre-modern non-objective art among a number of non-Western cultures, twentieth-century European forays into pure abstraction are isolated as having developed radically new pictorial stances that changed worldviews across continents. That is not to say that what these ...

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Mais Darwazah's "The Dinner"

[Still from Mais Darwazah's The Dinner (2012). Image copyright the director. Courtesy of the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival.]

The Dinner. Directed by Mais Darwazah. France/Palestine/UAE, 2012. In Mais Darwazah’s film The Dinner (2012) a portrait of Amman is composed through the lives of its inhabitants: streets are bustling; stairways serve as meeting points; and doors lead to hidden worlds. As a life-long resident, Darwazah approaches her muse with a series of interviews that gradually unpack her own reservations about the small Levantine city. The filmmaker enters its environs with the subject ...

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National Works: Kuwait's Debut at the Venice Biennale

[Tarek Al-Ghoussein,

National Works Pavilion of Kuwait 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale Curated by Ala Younis 1 June - 24 November 2013   Kuwait’s art scene is small, scattered, and clumsily endorsed by those who possess the unlimited resources and political sway to actually overhaul it. Many of its acting patrons are members of the ruling family who, as of late, have focused more energy on peacocking in regional art pageants than earnestly investing in the ...

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In Conversation with Amir H. Fallah

[Amir H. Fallah's

Portraiture in American art dates back to the time of the colonies. From the late eighteenth century onward, beginning with the work of such artists as John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, and Charles Peale, issues surrounding representations of race, class, and gender have inevitably crept into the milieu of figurative painting, primarily when American society has reached critical junctures in its political history. Painting—although the medium is periodically proclaimed ...

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Between Exits: Paintings by Hani Zurob

[Hani Zurob in his studio. Image courtesy of Black Dog Publishing.]

Kamal Boullata, Between Exits: Paintings by Hani Zurob. London: Black Dog, 2012  Hani Zurob’s early paintings are dominated by enigmatic figures of various shapes and sizes. Some resemble human subjects and are scaled to occupy the foregrounds of compositions—as though walking in a procession—while others are colossal and misshapen, overpowering everything in their path. Indications of their environment are equally nondescript. Vertical lines further divide the ...

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Allegory of a Revolution: José Clemente Orozco’s “The Trench”

[Detail of José Clemente Orozco’s “The Trench” (1926). Photographed by the author.]

José Clemente Orozco was the oldest of Los Tres Grandes, the celebrated modernist painters who led Mexico’s twentieth-century muralist movement. Among “The Big Three,” he was also the least politically dogmatic and the most outwardly pessimistic. Whereas Diego Rivera idealized the armed struggle of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), having missed the deadliest periods of combat while active in Cubist circles in Paris, Orozco was haunted by the carnage and chaos he had ...

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Maymanah Farhat

Maymanah Farhat is an art historian and curator specializing in modern and contemporary Arab art. Farhat has organized exhibitions at international art spaces and institutions including the Virginia Commonwealth University Gallery, Qatar; the Arab American National Museum, USA; and the Beirut Exhibition Center, Lebanon. Her writings have appeared in Callaloo Journal, Art Journal, Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, Apollo magazine, and Art + Auction magazine, among other periodicals, in addition to artist monographs, museum catalogues, and edited volumes. In 2014, she was listed among Foreign Policy's '100 Leading Global Thinkers' in recognition of her scholarship on Syrian art. 

Farhat is co-editor of Jadaliyya Culture.



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