By Lance Esplund
While a lot of museums include artists from around the world in their shows covering the recent past, too often the contributions are minor cultural variations on the same old Western themes—a homogenized diversity. That is why “Taking Shape: Abstraction From the Arab World, 1950s-1980s,” a fascinating exhibition of about 90 works at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, is so welcome and refreshing. It really has something new to say.
The show was organized by Suheyla Takesh, curator at the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, the collection from which the artworks have been drawn, and Lynn Gumpert, director at the Grey. It comprises artists from nations including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and the U.A.E. And its modest title, “Taking Shape,” acknowledges, Ms. Gumpert said, that the curators’ “approach to abstraction in the Arab world is not static—even with regard to the art of this defined time frame—but is, rather, in formation.”