Woman of Algiers

January 9–March 31, 2018

Baya: Woman of Algiers

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"'Baya: Woman of Algiers,' curated by Natasha Boas, is the artist’s first exhibition in North America, and is admirable for attempting to find her a suitable place within the well-trod narrative of Modernism — one that can feel stultified and remains, despite recent interventions, largely Western- and male-dominated. The twenty-odd paintings on view — all from the period around her Paris debut — prove that Baya was an artist of exceptional vision."

"Some two dozen women are currently haunting the lower floor of the Grey Art Gallery. They aren’t exactly ghosts or malevolent spirits. Neither are they just figures in the normal painterly sense, although they are painted, gorgeously, in twenty-two gouache-on-board works, wearing outrageously patterned dresses below complicated hair. They are the women of Baya, the Algerian artist of Berber and Arab heritage..."

New York University’s Grey Art Gallery is pleased to present the first North American exhibition of the work of self-taught Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine (1931–1998), who chose to be known by her first name only. On view from January 9 through March 31, 2018, in the Grey’s Lower Level Gallery, Baya: Woman of Algiers comprises some 20 gouache paintings, all shown for the first time in the U.S.

Though celebrated in Algeria, France and the Middle East, Baya (as she chose to be known) has yet to gain greater international recognition. Perhaps her background or initial association with mid-century luminaries such as Pablo Picasso, Andre Breton and Jean DuBuffet discouraged broader or more dedicated consideration of her work. A new exhibition redresses this oversight. Baya: Woman of Algiers – on view at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, January through March – is the first solo show of Baya’s art in North America. Comprising 22 gouache paintings from her 1947 Paris debut, it was curated by the French American scholar Natasha Boas, who recasts Baya’s legacy within critical, contemporary, feminist contexts.

"In 1947, a 16-year-old Algerian orphan named Baya suddenly became a Parisian art star. The dealer Aimé Maeght “discovered” her in Algiers and feted her with a possibly unprecedented one-young-woman show. He was not alone in his devotions. The surrealist guru André Breton, who helped organise the exhibition, saw in her dazzling gouaches the very future of painting. French Vogue published a full-page portrait of the teenager, accompanied by wonderstruck prose; Picasso, Braque, Camus, Matisse and Dubuffet all patted her on the head. The Grey Art Gallery has assembled 20 of the pieces from the Galerie Maeght show, a recreation that is at once exhilarating and sad."