Infinite Possibility: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian Portugal’s Serralves Museum offers a retrospective on the work of an Iranian artist feted by New York’s glitterati but whose geometric designs are inspired by Islamic art

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When a 20-year old Iranian art student moved to New York in 1944 from her hometown, the ancient city of Qazvin, she soon found herself mixing with the brightest players on the city’s art scene including Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol. John Cage crowned her “that beautiful Persian girl”.

But the work of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian had a different source, not in Warhol’s Factory or Manhattan’s Studio 54 nightclub but beneath the crystalline high-domed hall of the Shah Cheragh mosque in Shiraz, southern Iran. There, she had experienced in 1966 a transformative encounter she compared to “walking into a diamond in the centre of the sun”.

The first museum survey of Farmanfarmaian’s work isolates the past 40 years from an illustrious and lustrous career. Not only does it showcase a wealth of material, it highlights recent forays into moving sculpture and painterly works on paper that suggest fresh potential in an artist who is now 90.

Infinite Possibility – Mirror Works and Drawings 1974-2014 is presented at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto this winter. Curated by the museum’s director, Suzanne Cotter, the period of her career covered by the show reflects Farmanfarmaian’s complete adoption of abstract geometry, a genre she made her own in the 1970s by translating it into three dimensions via mirrored sculptures and reliefs.

The show presents the artist, who signs her works simply as “Monir”, as a prolific and interdisciplinary figure. Passing visitors to Serralves will be drawn in by the aesthetic majesty of the riches on display; on the surface alone, the dazzling lustre of this period of Monir’s work is hard to resist. But beyond the glittering surface lies grit: in her practice as an abstract artist, Farmanfarmaian was and remains a pioneer both as an Iranian and as a woman – the most celebrated, and perhaps the only, contemporary artist working in mirror mosaic.

Seeing Farmanfarmaian’s work exhibited at Doha’s The Third Line gallery in 2013 prompted Cotter to bring both Monir’s sculptures and sketches to Porto. The artist later thanked Cotter in an interview with Artforum, the international magazine, for “being the first to notice that my drawings were something different and deserved a special focus”. Cotter wants the sketches to be seen as abstract compositions in their own right, not merely as preparation for three-dimensional works.

Most of the material included in Infinite Possibility comes from Monir’s personal collection and has not been previously shown in public. As with many artists of her time, both she and her work were marked by Iran’s political circumstances and a swathe of her oeuvre was lost in the throes of the 1979 Iranian revolution. Indeed, the works on paper were originally born out of necessity while the artist was deprived of her Tehran studio for a decade after leaving once again for New York when the revolution broke out.

In her dedicated workshop, which reopened in Tehran in 2004, Monir works alongside artisans and craftsmen trained in traditional Persian decorative arts and construction including aineh-kari (mirror mosaics) and khatam-kari (inlaid marquetry). After some initial persuasion of the artisans in the 1970s, with some reluctant to take orders from a woman, many of the original craftsmen are dedicated to Monir and remain in her atelier today.

In many senses, Monir works in the spirit of old masters. Her Tehran workshop recalls the studios of 17th-century European painters, but also that of the collaborative Persian kitabkhana, which defined the artistic output of the early modern period in Iran. The kitabkhana (literally, ‘the house of books’) was the atelier of artists and craftsmen working in the service of the Persian court in the 1600s. Designs on paper were circulated around craftsmen from different disciplines, including potters, architects, and illuminators working on the borders of manuscripts – so that the same patterns appeared in different media. As with the kitabkhana, Monir’s designs on paper have also informed textiles, sculpture and interior design throughout her career.

Monir also has taken both sculptural and architectural commissions from a dedicated pool of patrons. Her large-scale mirror mosaics have iced everything from the Senate building in Tehran to the Dag Hammarskjöld tower in New York. An early version of one of her Mirror Ball (1974) spheres sat on Warhol’s desk: its sparkling siblings are lined up at Serralves in a silent disco.

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Monir in her salon, Tehran 1975, as seen in the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art catalogue. Photograph: The Third Line, Dubai/The Third Line, Dubai
Within Infinite Possibility is an example of her geometric vision in a domestic context. At the end of the exhibition are double doors of frosted glass that she originally fashioned for her New York apartment in the 1980s. A glowing portal, they throw the grey light onto the surrounding walls through interconnected shapes scattered on their translucent surface.

Monir’s work fuses the heritage of traditional Iranian craft, particularly that of architectural decoration, with the western philosophies of minimalism and abstraction that informed her friends and contemporaries like Frank Stella and Robert Morris. Geometric, pattern-based abstraction has appeared in Islamic art for thousands of years. A similar aesthetic boomed in Western art during the 1960s, as geometric minimalism became a popular art movement as a measured, rational cousin to the volatility and physicality of abstract expressionism.

In both instances, geometric art retains a connection with a scientific and mathematic thought, be it the late ninth-century Persian polymath Omar Khayyam or the modern geometer. The axiomatic coordinates of Farmanfarmaian’s sculptures allows them to tessellate into the “infinite possibilities” that she envisages. An animation in Bahman Kiarostami’s Monir, a documentary film about the artist which had its premier at the Serravles exhibition, shows the six elements of her Convertible Series (Group 8) from 2010, splitting and re-connecting into a kaleidoscopic myriad of combinations.

Although Monir’s work resonates with this global dialogue of sixties’ minimalism, her mirror sculptures are not only dimensional but also display a unique animate quality. It was an idea sparked from watching the changing hues play across the glass interior of the Shah Cheragh mosque as people circulated within. Surfaces of her Families (2011-2013) – groups of up to six variations on a single shape, grandly showcased in the second half of Infinite Possibility – are similarly faceted so that “every colour moves”, as the artist explains in the Kirostami documentary: the experience changes each time a visitor is reflected in the work’s surface. The monumental, rotating Square (2014) signals a move into kinetics, where twisting quadrangles are stacked on top of each other, their surface reduced from the signature scattering of mirrored pieces into a single veneer of polished steel.

Considerations of Monir’s oeuvre have often searched for spiritual symbolism. This results not just from her connections with traditional craft but from the influence of religious architecture seen in the mosque niches of her grand Murquanas (2012) or the origami-esque Nomadic Tent Design (1978). And with the mathematical foundations of repetition and progression, many have deconstructed her works to find a connection to Sufi numerology. But the artist shakes off such claims in Kirostami’s Monir, where she describes her motivation as purely secular and formalistic. There are no attempts to calculate the infinities of existence, she says: “It is just the hexagon and line, [there is] no philosophy behind it.”

Her method of working is simultaneously intuitive and calculated. In another scene from Monir, which takes place in her workshop, the artist grazes a ruler across a sheet of squared tracing paper, taking a pencil to shade in a grid of lozenges, whilst muttering a chant of “here, here, and here”. There are echoes of automatism in the impulsiveness of her drawing, at odds with the mathematical perfection of her sculpture. In her drawings, so generously laid out at Serralves, scribbled half circles are scattered like confetti over frames of geometric line. Within nets of triangles, rectangles and hexagons, Monir has inserted shards of mirrored glass, working across mediums whilst still employing her artistic vocabulary and compositional principles.

Within the Serralves retrospective, Monir’s work begins to occupy a third space, the intersection of an imagined Venn diagram between spheres of sculpture, architecture, painting and draughtsmanship. Works mounted on the walls take their cue from her education as a fine artist on canvass under the tutelage of the American modernist painter Milton Avery in the 1950s. In her most recent drawings, delicate petals and blooms have begun to creep in, making flowerbeds within her famous hexagons and undulating semi-circles. These motifs mark a return to softer elements plucked from the beginning of her artistic career, where she created still lives of flowers, department store illustrations and monotype prints – an endeavour which won her a medal at the 1958 Venice Biennale.

Her always untitled sketches provide a greater scope for her experimentally. As the fine, calligraphic line used to conjure the blossoms increasingly intermingles with the graphic solidity of shape, the designs on paper would present a sculptural impracticality. One begins to realise that these drawings are, as Cotter says, more than potential brainstorms for large-scale works; they are drawings for drawing’s sake. The textures within her works on paper explore the infinite possibilities that drive her practice even further than before, and are shown in compelling independence at this exhibition.

After having made art for more than 70 years, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian is still very much a practitioner. After Porto, the exhibition will be travelling to Monir’s second home, with a showing at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York opening in March.

The author’s visit to the exhibit was supported by the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility – Mirror Works and Drawings 1974-2014 is showing at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal through 11 January

Natasha Morris for Tehran Bureau

http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2014/dec/27/-sp-monir-shahroudy-farmanfarmaian-iran-infinite-possibility

The Game of Knowledge taught about the slow upward path of the spiritual seeker

Ismailimail

The Game of Knowledge, teaches the players about Islam.

The players embark on journeys during which they will learn that the upward path of the spiritual seeker is a gradual one.

The goal is to reach the top central square – Heaven.

Snakes_and_Ladders

The popular board game Snakes & Ladders is believed to have originated in India in the second century, and may have been based on the ancient game of dasapadadasa a Sanskrit word meaning ten – and was played on a board of 10×10 squares. The Jains called their version gyanbazi or gyanbaji which means Game of Knowledge.

The game was played widely in India by the name of Moksha Patamu which aimed to teach morality based on Hinduism. The board was covered with symbolism: the top featured gods, angels, and majestic beings while the remainder of the board was covered with pictures of animals, flowers, and people…

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Chocolatexture: A Series of Chocolates to Represent Japanese Words For Texture Created by Nendoby Johnny Strategy on January 22, 2015

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Japanese design office Nendo has created 9 different types of chocolate. While each are the same size, not a single piece from the Chocolatexture collection look alike. That’s because Oki Sato, who leads the Tokyo and Milan-based firm, rethought the concept of chocolate by focusing on texture. “There are many factors that determine a chocolate’s taste,” says Sato, referring to factors like the origin of cocoa, the percentage used, and the various different flavors. But by instead turning his attention to attributes like pointy, smooth and rough, the designer has created distinctive chocolates that all use identical ingredients but taste completely different due to the various textures.

Each of the 9 chocolates were inspired by an onomatopoeic word from the Japanese language that describes texture. The chocolates correspond with words like “toge toge” (sharp pointy tips), “sube sube” (smooth edges and corners) and “zara zara” (granular, like a file). Chocolatexture was created for the Maison & Objet trade fair currently taking place this week in Paris. 400 limited edition Chocolatexture sets were created and will be sold during the event in Paris at what’s being dubbed the “Chocolatexture lounge.” (syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

Chocolatexture: A Series of Chocolates to Represent Japanese Words For Texture Created by Nendo

Omar (2013)

Political Film Blog

Omar-poster

This Palestinian film, from the makers of Paradise Now, is well done and emotional. It shows the barbarism and the psychological stress of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Very little comes out of Palestine, and these are refreshing for their portrayals of the ongoing conflict from the Palestinian side. While Israel’s penetration into media is an over-representation, the Palestinians are severely under-represented, and this contributes to western ignorance over the situation there.

The plot veers a bit into the implausible a couple of times. For this reason I prefer the previous film, Paradise Now, for its brutal honesty and gripping tension.paradise-now

Omar incorporates a love story, two lovers separated by the massive apartheid wall, which Omar must repeatedly climb in order to see Nadia. Each time he does so, he is exposed to potential sniper fire. Each visit could be a deadly sacrifice.

The Palestinian resistance…

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‘Focus Iran: Contemporary Photography and Video’ opens at The Craft & Folk Art Museum

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Craft & Folk Art Museum and Farhang Foundation present Focus Iran: Contemporary Photography and Video. This juried exhibition features photography and video works from artists around the world who have documented contemporary, intimate life relating to Iran and the Iranian diaspora. The exhibition will be on view at CAFAM from January 25 through May 3, 2015. The juried exhibition was organized as a means to identify and expose emerging artists from around the world whose works reflected on aspects of Iranian culture or heritage. The breadth and impact of the open call resulted in 615 submissions from across Europe and North America, Iran, Australia, and Japan. A final selection of 36 works by 33 artists was chosen by a panel of jurors immersed in the field of photography: Steven Albahari, publisher of 21st Editions; visual artist Ala Ebtekar; and Lucie Foundation Executive Director Cat Jimenez. Six video works were also selected, displaying skillful techniques in the short documentary format, as well as animation. “Partnering with the magnanimous Farhang Foundation has been a wonderful opportunity to reach out to an international pool of artists,” says CAFAM Executive Director Suzanne Isken. “Each of the works offers a vision of Iran from an artist’s perspective. This intimate portrait stands in contrast to the journalistic point of view most often served to non-Iranian audiences.” “Farhang Foundation is dedicated to creating platforms to showcase works of emerging international artists which explore themes of Iranian heritage and culture,” says Farhang Foundation Fine Arts Council Chair Roshi Rahnama. “Focus Iran has been a perfect collaboration with the visionary Craft & Folk Art Museum, co-creating a substantive and inclusive photography and video competition resulting in a strong and diverse body of work selected by the esteemed jury panel. We are thrilled to share this celebratory exhibition of international works with the Los Angeles community and beyond.” The selected artists: Sohrab Akhavan (USA), Mohammad Amin Nadi (Canada), Amir Behroozi (Iran), Ahmad Belbasi (Iran), Arash Bolouri (Iran), Yasmin Chegini (USA), Jovan Erfan (USA), Ramin Etemadi Bozorg (Iran), Majid Farahani (Iran), Marjan Farsad (Canada), Milad Haddadiyan (Iran), Mehdi Hawaii Sardehaii (USA), Judi Iranyi (USA), Shahrokh Jafari (USA), Morvarid K (France), Saeide Karimi (USA) and Siavash Yansori (USA), Atefeh Khas (Iran), Gelareh Kiazand (Turkey) and Kambiz Safari (Iran), Wawrzyniec Kolbusz (Poland), Samira Kouhi (Iran), Shaghayegh Mazloom (Iran), Ali Mohammadi (Iran), Siamak Nasiri Ziba (USA), Grace Oh (USA), Omid Omidvari (Iran), Sepideh Salehi (USA), Jalal Shamsazaran (Iran), Sheida Soleimani (USA), Fazilat Soukhakian (USA), Ramin Talaie (USA), Marjan Vayghan (USA)

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Aleppo Photographer Brings Syrian Reality to the United Nations

In Gaza

Hagop Vanesian's exhibition, “My Homeland,” ran at the United Nations Headquarters from January 8-16. Hagop Vanesian’s exhibition, “My Homeland,” ran at the United Nations Headquarters from January 8-16.

by Eva Bartlett

Twenty-six distinct photos, in black and white. Scenes of a ravaged city and the human beings within struggling to exist, let alone to find hope for the future. Gravestones of rubble. Homes looted, trashed. Civilians defending their country. Children aged beyond their years by the horrors they’ve lived.

Hagop Vanesian, a 44 year old Syrian-Armenian photographer from Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo (Halab), was meticulous in his choice of photographs for the exhibition, “My Homeland,” which opened at the United Nations Headquarters on January 8 and runs until January 16.

“I chose the photographs showing the destruction, and children. I have many photographs of children, maybe 25-30 percent are of children, these little angels suffering. They are innocent, they don’t understand about politics, they suffer a lot.”

Vanesian, a silversmith by trade, started…

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UK Relents After Blocking Syrian Artist’s Visit by Benjamin Sutton on January 21, 201

After initially preventing him from traveling to the UK, the British government has granted Syrian-born, Sharjah-based artist Thaier Helal‘s second visa application, allowing him to attend the opening of his first solo show in London.

“We had reapplied for Thaier’s UK visa and now it’s been approved,” Minna J. Apostolovic, head of public relations at Ayyam Gallery, told Hyperallergic. “We’re trying to get him on the next available flight to London.”

Thaier Helal (photo via Facebook, used with the artist's permission)

Helal is attempting to travel to the UK in time for the January 22 opening of his exhibition Landmarks at Ayyam Gallery’s space on New Bond Street, even though the Home Office — the ministry that oversees security and immigration — turned down his first visa application. The artist had provided all the requisite documents including bank statements, a letter from the University Of Sharjah (where he lectures), and recommendations, but immigration officials reviewing his first application said they were “not satisfied he [was] genuinely seeking entry to the United Kingdom as a business visitor. In addition [they were] not satisfied that [he] intend to leave the United Kingdom at the end of [his] visit,” according to theIndependent.

“I just don’t understand why I have been refused entry to the UK, I am just an artist who wants to be at the opening of my first solo exhibition in Britain. It means so much to me — it is really a career achievement,” Helal told the Independent. “I truly believe that the only reason preventing me from being allowed into the UK is my Syrian passport, it was my belief that Britain was an open society which embraced creative freedom and the promotion of cultural exchange.”

Ayyam Gallery, which was founded in Damascus and also has exhibition spaces in Dubai, Beirut, and Jeddah, is unfortunately accustomed to having to deal with immigration officials’ inscrutable decisions. Last year Israeli authorities prevented one of the gallery’s artists, Khaled Jarrar, from traveling to New York City for openings of exhibitions in which he was featured at the New Museum and the Whitebox Art Center.

Artists with non-EU passports attempting to travel to the UK and North America have long faced similar difficulties. In 2013, the Algerian artist Sofiane Belaskri was denied a four-day visa to visit the UK for the opening of an exhibition and ensuing workshops at the Free World Centre in London. Last year, the Canadian government denied the Afghan artist Hanifa Alizada a visa to attend a photography symposium in Ottawa.

 Thaier Helal, "Assi River" (2013), mixed media on canvas (courtesy the artist and Ayyam Gallery)

Over 15 galleries specializing in Japanese art will hold exhibitions in NYC this Asia Week More Information: http://artdaily.com/news/75936/Over-15-galleries-specializing-in-Japanese-art-will-hold-exhibitions-in-NYC-this-Asia-Week#.VMDSRWSsVtI[/url] Copyright © artdaily.org

NEW YORK, NY.- Over a dozen of Europe and the United States’ leading dealers of Japanese art will present exhibitions during New York’s Asia Week, from March 13 to March 22, 2015. The wide spectrum of exhibitions will highlight the breathtaking range of the arts of Japan, from ancient terracottas to scenes of nature and of Japan’s emergent middle class entertainment to recent photographs of bodies emblazoned with tattoos. In 2015, the Japanese Art Dealers Association will hold its seventh consecutive collaborative exhibition of Japanese art by leading dealers in the field – the only regularly held mini-fair during Asia Week, one that dates back to 2009. JADA 2015: An Exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association will feature over 60 works of art that span 2,000 years. The exhibition will be held at the Ukrainian Institute of America, 2 E. 79 St. in New York, for three days only, from March 14 through March 16, 2015. Asia Week draws to New York curators, art historians, collectors, and aficionados from all over the world for a week of exhibitions that reveal long-hidden masterpieces and fine works of art. It was established in by Sotheby’s in 1992. “The interest in Japanese art has continued to be robust over the past several years, and in 2015 JADA welcomes several new affiliated galleries to its ongoing effort to highlight exceptional Japanese art during Asia Week,” said Sebastian Izzard, president of the JADA. “Our members and affiliates look forward to a vibrant Asia Week with the arts of Japan among the week’s highlights.” Among the works in JADA 2015 will be an early bronze Dōka (ritual spear blade) from the Yayoi Period (400 BC-AD 300), exhibited by Mika Gallery, that is in exceptionally fine condition. An early and important 15th century calligraphy, Zen no Kaname, Principle of Zen, by Motsurin Shōtō (d. 1419) will be shown by Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts. Shōtō was a prominent calligrapher of the Muromachi period (1392-1573) and a disciple of Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481), the noted Zen Buddhist monk and poet. The provenance of Zen no Kaname, Principle of Zen includes Jinkōin Temple, one of the three largest Shingon sect temples in Kyoto. Other highlights include a remarkable and historically notable pair of circa 1800 six-panel screens, Places Along the Tōkaidō, a highly detailed work that pre-dates Utagawa Hiroshige’s landmark print series, The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō. The screens feature hundreds of travelers in various landscapes and are both remarkably beautiful and a document that recalls a transitional moment in Japanese culture. They will be exhibited by Erik Thomsen Gallery. Dating from 1889, nearly a century later, is a pair of hanging scrolls by the 19th century master of several media, Shibata Zeshin (1807–1891), Carp Swimming among Water Plants. The scrolls illustrate the artist’s exquisite technique and his sense of play: the expressions between the creatures is all too human, a quixotic merging of nature and man. The scrolls will be presented by Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art. Illustrating a love of nature derived from spiritual adulation common in Japanese art are Landscapes and Birds of the Four Seasons, a pair of ink and color on gold-leaf six-panel Kyo-Kano screens (school of Mitsunobu/Takanobu) that date to the early 17th century. The beautifully painted screens, of rich colors and dynamic composition, are in pristine condition and were once in the Kyushu Daimyō collection, which included screens now in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands. They will be shown by Leighton R. Longhi, Inc. Oriental Fine Art. In addition to JADA 2015, the members of JADA will hold exhibitions at their individual galleries: Erik Thomsen Gallery; Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Art; Leighton R. Longhi, Inc. Oriental Fine Arts; Mika Gallery; and Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art. Eight prominent galleries affiliated with JADA – one from Asia, two from Europe, and five from the United States – that handle Japanese art will be exhibiting during Asia Week as well: Bachmann Eckenstein Japanese Art, of Basel, Switzerland; Floating World Gallery, of Chicago, IL; Giuseppe Piva Japanese Art, of Milan Italy; Hiroshi Yanagi Oriental Art, of Kyoto, Japan; Onishi Gallery, of New York, NY; Ronin Gallery, of New York, NY; Scholten Japanese Art of New York, NY; and The Art of Japan, of Medina, WA. The auction house Bonhams will be active during Asia Week, as well, and Christie’s will be holding its annual auction of Japanese art in April. Three notable and distinguished galleries that handle Japanese art have become affiliated with JADA in 2015 but will not be exhibiting in New York during Asia Week. Each is based in London, England: Grace Tsumugi Fine Art, Gregg Baker Asian Art, and Malcolm Fairley Ltd.

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Sharjah Biennial 12, 2015 http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/bien/sharjah_biennial/2015

Eungie Joo

Eungie Joo

SAF Art Spaces

SAF Art Spaces

Title:  The past, the present, the possible

Sharjah Biennial 12: The past, the present, the possible (SB12) will open on March 5, 2015 and will be on view through June 5, 2015. SB12 began to take shape in a private conversation between artist Danh Vo and curator Eungie Joo in early 2014. Together they discussed the relevance of contemporary art and the potential of artistic positions to imagine something beyond current states of social and political confinement—and the need for artists to play active roles in imagining the possible.

While archeological research confirms the presence of humans in this region over 125,000 years ago, Sharjah—as a city, an emirate and a member of a relatively young federation—is still in the process of imagining itself through education, culture, religion, heritage and science. SB12 will invite more than fifty artists and cultural practitioners from approximately twenty-five countries to participate in this process by introducing their ideas of the possible through their art and work.

SB12 will be on view from March 5 – June 5, 2015, with opening events taking place March 5 – 8. A vital component of Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual programming, March Meeting 2015 will take place in mid-May, exact dates forthcoming. SB12 will also feature a monthly talks series in Sharjah beginning in September 2014.

Sharjah Biennial is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation, which brings a broad range of contemporary art and cultural programmes to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE and the region.

Since 1993, Sharjah Biennial has commissioned, produced and presented large-scale public installations, performances and films, offering artists from the region and beyond an internationally recognised platform for exhibition and experimentation.

(From press information, 19 June 2014)

Organizer:

Sharjah Art Foundation

PO Box 19989
Sharjah
United Arab Emirates
Website / Email

Media contacts:

Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates
Maitha Al Jassim
maitha@sharjahart.org
Tel: +971-6-544-4113, ext. 25

 FITZ & CO, New York
Katrina Weber Ashour
katrina@fitzandco.com
Tel: +1 212-627-1455 ext. 1653

Prints by mysterious 18th century Japanese artist focus of new Art Institute exhibition More Information: http://artdaily.com/news/75935/Prints-by-mysterious-18th-century-Japanese-artist-focus-of-new-Art-Institute-exhibition#.VMCy7GSsVtI[/url] Copyright © artdaily.org

CHICAGO, IL.- The Art Institute is presenting an exhibition of Japanese prints by a mysterious 18th century Japanese artist whose identity is debated but whose output was remarkable for its innovation and imagination. Masterworks of Japanese Prints: Toshusai Sharaku will be on display through March 29, 2015, in Gallery 107. Toshusai Sharaku produced about 150 designs in a 10-month period between the summer of 1794 and the early spring of 1795. Before and after this period, an artist by this name is unknown, and therefore, Sharaku’s identity has been a matter of much debate. The Art Institute has one of the best museum collections of Sharaku’s work in the world thanks to the early efforts of collectors Clarence and Kate Buckingham. Most of the prints in this exhibition entered the museum between 1925 and 1934 as gifts from the Buckinghams. Sharaku’s earliest work consisted of 28 bust portraits of actors who appeared in the Kabuki plays presented at the three principal Edo (Tokyo) theaters starting in the fifth month of 1794. Each of these prints had a dark, shiny background made with a mineral silicate called mica. All of these early designs are bold portraits of actors in identifiable roles. After a few months, however, and as the peak of the Kabuki season approached, this format was abandoned and he began designing prints of two full-length figures. In many of these prints, white mica rather than dark mica is used. The technique of using mica became quite popular in the early 1790s but was later abandoned, perhaps due to governmental edicts. In his later prints, Sharaku turned to a yellow ground, smaller format for bust portraits. This exhibition, organized by Janice Katz, Roger L. Weston Associate Curator of Japanese Art, contains examples of all of the types of prints mentioned above. Also on view in a different gallery will be Blue Phoenix, a stunning pair of folding screens by Japanese artist Omura Koyo (1891–1983). These oversized screens present Koyo’s vision of a tropical scene complete with rare birds and exotic plants. Bright orange Flame of the Forest flowers form the backdrop for flashy pheasants with highly patterned plumage and blue heads. The work glows, not only because of the bright colors, but also due to the gold leaf that was applied to the underside of the silk on which the scene is painted. This pair of screens, Koyo’s masterpiece, was exhibited at a Japanese government-sponsored exhibition in 1921, where it garnered great praise and one of the coveted prizes.

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