Abu Dhabi Art. Meem Projects 2012: Modern Arab Art & Letters in Art


7 - 10 November 2012

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 Jose Miguel Puerta Vilchez (author of La Aventura del Calamo, 2007, Libertad e innovacion : caligrafia arabe contemporanea, 2010 and La poetica 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).

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Dia Azzawi: Elegy To My Trapped City


24 September - 31 October 2012

Dia Azzawi's mural-sized painting, Elegy To My Trapped City (2011), was first exhibited by the gallery in November 2011, during Abu Dhabi Art. Comprised of haunting fragmented monochrome forms, the work represents the post-2003 destruction of Iraq. As one of the more politically inclined artists of his generation, Azzawi has since the 1970s created works which address the issue of human suffering as a result of political instability. His politically motivated works are often likened to Picasso's seminal painting Guernica (1937); however, the artist's exploration of themes of war and plight also differ from the Spanish artist in several ways: in the nature of the attack displayed, and the compositional arrangement of figures and forms. The display of Elegy follows the recent unveiling of the artist's work Sabra Shatila Massacre at the Tate Modern in London, a work based on the 1982 massacre of civilians in Beirut's Palestinian refugee camps during the Lebanese civil war. Elegy, which also pays homage to the Iraqi poet Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati's (1926-1999) poem of the same title, was exhibited with five acrylic and China ink preparatory drawings by the artist.

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Fun w/ Fen: Mohamed Kanoo


15 May - 5 July 2012

Fun w/Fen is Mohamed Kanoo's second solo exhibition at the gallery, displaying his recent work. The exhibition presents the artist's humorous interpretation of topical issues including religion, culture, politics and popular culture. The exhibition features silkscreen and digital prints, installation and mixed media works, such as Abayya Army and the Red Balloon, Catching Fish, and Henna Stop Sign. Many of his recent works also pays homage to a number of artists Kanoo draws inspiration from, such as in works like Allah, which presents four small incisions on a large silver canvas, an immediate interpretation of the pioneering conceptual work of the 1950s  Argentinian born artist Lucio Fontana; AraMao, which is based on Andy Warhol's famous portrait of Chairman Mao; and his personal interpretation of Katsushika Hokusai's iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa, where he replaces Mount Fuji with Dubai's Burj Al Arab. Kanoo's first solo exhibition held at Meem Gallery in 2009 displayed his '99' Shemaghart collection.

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Art Morocco: Mohamed Melehi, Ahmed Cherkaoui, Jilali Gharboui


12 March - 30 April 2012

Art Morocco presents the rare opportunity to view the work of Moroccan modern masters Mohammed Melehi, Ahmed Cherkaoui and Jilali Gharbaoui. Pioneers of modern abstract painting in Morocco, their work demonstrates how, following the country's independence in 1956, artists created an aesthetic dialogue between their cultural heritage and the impact of colonialism on North African artistic culture. Having studied abroad during the late 1950s (in Europe and the US), the three artists' work formally adheres to modern Western artistic techniques but simultaneously references traditional Moroccan arts and crafts, signs and symbols. In 1959, Melehi and Gharbaoui exhibited their work at the Premiere Biennale des Jeunes in Paris, introducing the international art world to contemporary Moroccan art. The artists, along with Cherkaoui, also participated in the second installment of the Biennale in 1961. This exhibition is the first show to display the work of the three artists in the United Arab Emirates. 

Meem Gallery would like to thank Attijariwafa Bank for the loan of the works of Ahmed Cherkaoui and Jilali Gharbaoui from their corporate collection.

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