Arts This Week: ‘Abstraction from the Arab World’
GBH News, May 21, 2021

By Jared Bowen

“Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980s,” on view at the McMullen Museum of Art through June 13.

Discover a trove of abstract artwork never before seen in the United States at the McMullen Museum of Art. “Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980s” is a groundbreaking exhibition that features mid-twentieth-century abstract and modern art from the Arab diaspora stretching from North Africa to West Asia — a region often ignored in the Western art canon. Drawn from the Barjeel Art Foundation’s collection of nonfigurative Arab art, the works on view feature artists from a range of countries, backgrounds and religions who often infused their impressions of Western art with the deep, cultural touchstones of their newly independent nations. Within the exhibition stand examinations of Sufism, calligraphy and historic elements of pharaonic and Mesopotamian artifacts.

“It’s almost like being an archeologist,” says founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. “Many of the artists in this show had been forgotten towards the latter end of the 20th century, and so I feel like what we are doing now is reintroducing them into the world.”

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