Meem Gallery's two-part exhibition, Modern Arab Art and Letters in Art, marks the first installment of the gallery’s new curatorial venture Meem Projects. Modern Arab Art will display key works, in a range of media (painting, sculpture and drawings), by modern ‘pioneer’ artists: Dia Azzawi, Ahmed Cherkaoui, Ismail Fattah, Louay Kayyali, Mohamed Melehi, Fateh Moudarres, Shakir Hassan Al Said, Jewad Selim, Ibrahim Salahi and Gazbia Sirry. Letters in Art will exhibit the paintings of Ali Omar Ermes, prints by Kamal Boullata, the graphic works of Nja Mahdaoui, and two bronze sculptures by Parviz Tanavoli.
Part 1: Modern Arab Art
Modern Arab Art takes viewers through varying decades of twentieth-century modern Arab art production, starting with Al Said’s work, El Norag of the 1920s, to an early work by Selim, c.1950, and an untitled gouache on paper by Cherkaoui executed in 1959; paintings by Louay Kayyali and Gazbia Sirry from 1960 and 1967; works by Dia Azzawi, Ismail Fattah, Mohamed Melehi and Fateh Moudarres created in the 1970s, and finally works dating from the 1980s by Al Said and Salahi. The exhibition also traverses geographical boundaries by bringing together artists from Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Sudan and Syria. The subject matter presented is equally diverse covering purely abstract work, the human form, genre scenes, landscape subjects and politically motivated works. Though the artists and subjects displayed are varied, this exhibition also highlights a number of intersections found in these artists’ works and approaches, such as their interest in wedding traditional visual culture to a modern aesthetic.
Part 2: Letters in Art
Letters in Art explores the prominent trend of integrating Arabic and Farsi letters and calligraphic forms into modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art. More commonly known as Hurufiyyah, the exploration of the abstraction of words and letters has played an integral role in creating an artistic identity specific to modern and contemporary artists of the region. The artists displayed in this section of Meem’s exhibition have all experimented with the letterword extensively; however, each artist and work presents a different interpretation of the written word. Ali Omar Ermes – who, like Mahdaoui, has dedicated his work to the exploration of letters – uses the literary culture and penmanship of the region as a point of departure, while Kamal Boullata’s experience of exile prompted him to explore the Arabic letter, combining his knowledge of literature, poetry and religion with geometry, colour and form; Nja Mahdaoui’s exploration of Arabic is predicated on the idea of deconstructing its etymological and linguistic meaning, and Parviz Tanavoli’s iconic heech and poet series of sculpture demonstrate the way in which the aesthetic qualities of script can be manipulated and formulated into three-dimensional form.
Book Launch: Meem Projects 2012 (Published by Meem Editions, Dubai, 2012)
Abu Dhabi Art Library
8 November 2012, 4.00–4.30 pm
At Abu Dhabi Art 2012, Meem Gallery launched the Meem Projects 2012 publication Modern Arab Art and Letters in Art, which examines the work of fifteen important modern Arab and Iranian artists. Documenting Meem Gallery’s two-part display at Abu Dhabi Art 2012, this publication provides both an overview and detailed study of key works exhibited by the gallery — paintings, prints, works on paper and sculpture.
The first part of the publication looks at key works of modern Arab artists: Dia Azzawi, Ahmed Cherkaoui, Ismail Fattah, Louay Kayyali, Mohamed Melehi, Fateh Moudarres, Mahmoud Said, Shaker Hassan Al Said, Ibrahim Salahi, Jewad Selim and Gazbia Sirry; the second part investigates the role of letters in modern Arab and Iranian art, focusing on the work of Kamal Boullata, Ali Omar Ermes, Nja Mahdaoui and Parviz Tanavoli.
The catalogue includes essays by leading art critics and academics Charbel Dagher (author of Arab Letterism, Art and Identity, 1990, and Arab Painting Between a Context and a Horizon, 2003), and José Miguel Puerta Vilchez (author of La Aventura del Cálamo, 2007, Libertad e innovación : caligrafía árabe contemporánea, 2010 and La poética del agua, 2012); artist and writer Kamal Boullata; Ministry of Culture, Museum and Heritage Sites Executive Director, Talal Moualla; Managing Director, Meem Gallery and Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, Charles Pocock; Director of Research, Meem Gallery, Samar Faruqi; doctoral candidates conducting research on the subject of modern Arab art: Saleem Al-Bahloly (University of California, Berkeley), Holiday Powers (Cornell University) and Alexandra Seggerman (Yale University).