Taking Shape

Artwork Spotlight: Rachid Koraïchi’s “Sans toi, ni moi, ou l’hallucination nostalgique (Without You, or Me, or the Nostalgic Hallucination)” and “Cet espace incrusté de nos destins (This Space is Inlaid with Our Destinies)”

April 15, 2020 By Yunzhi Pan When it comes to thinking about Arab modern art, it is nearly impossible to overlook the impact of the Hurufiyyah movement. Beginning in the 1940s and lasting into the 1980s and beyond, artists in this loosely defined movement introduced Islamic calligraphy into modern visual art practice. Many of them […]

Artist Spotlight: Saloua Raouda Choucair

April 15, 2020 By Géranne Darbouze I shall be supplied with whatever I need; and, if I have not everything I desire, I may conclude it is either not fit for me, or I shall have it in due time. —Matthew Henry As they say, life has a strange way of making things work out […]

On the heels of the exhibition “Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection,” which showcased works from the 1960s and ’70s, Grey Art Gallery’s first presentation of the year further widened the lens on 20th-century art from the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa. “Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s,” curated by Suheyla Takesh and Lynn Gumpert, represented a joint effort with the Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation to consider modernist movements from the region and the diaspora.

Artwork Spotlight: Abdallah Benanteur’s “The Garden of Saadi”

March 31, 2020 By Géranne Darbouze Located in the area devoted to gestural abstraction in the Grey Art Gallery’s current exhibition, Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s, Abdallah Benanteur’s painting The Garden of Saadi of 1984 is thought to represent not only a contrast between the physical landscapes of Northern France and Southern […]

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s (Grey Art Gallery, New York University and Hirmer Publishers, 2020) was published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name. Read the book’s introduction below. Introduction: “No Longer a Horizon, but Infinity,” by Suheyla Takesh, co-curator of the exhibition and curator at the Barjeel Art Foundation. […]

Artist Spotlight: Samia Halaby

March 19, 2020 By Lara Arafeh Recently I sat down for tea and nuts with Jerusalem-born Samia Halaby, a Palestinian-American artist whose works are on view in the Grey Art Gallery’s current exhibition, Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s. “If I wasn’t an artist, I would be a mathematician,” she said. Her mathematical […]

Modern Arab art is having a moment; there is no question about it. In the past decade there have been large exhibitions of Arab artists at both the Centre Pompidou and Tate Modern, and a series of others across the world. Now, ‘Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s’, which starts at the Grey Art Gallery in New York and will spend more than a year touring East Coast and Midwestern universities in America, brings together some of the region’s finest modern artists. It is a real hit parade of work – some of it truly wonderful – from almost every country in the Arab world; Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Palestine are particularly well represented.

One could not think of a more serendipitous backdrop — an acclaimed park, a cool neighbourhood and a cosmopolitan academic institution — for the exhibition billed ‘Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab world, 1950s-1980s’, slated to run from January 14 to April 4. On display is a collection of 90 works — all drawn from the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, UAE — featuring sundry artists from most countries in the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Taking Shape was conceived as a visual journey into the creative minds of some of the Arab world's most prominent artists and their approaches to non-representational art. In her essay in the exhibition’s accompanying catalogue, curator Suleya Takesh quotes Algerian painter Mohammed Khadda’s compelling observations about the potential of abstraction and his argument in favor of the freedom inherent to the movement: "The history of painting had been one of successive revolutions and continuous liberation that eventually culminated in the emergence of abstraction, allowing painting to become an art unto itself, no longer reliant on a physical subject. There was no longer a horizon, but infinity."