The Block’s Fall 2022 exhibition, Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s explores the wide range of nonfigurative art practices that flourished in the Arab world over the course of four decades. Looking critically at narratives of mid-20th-century abstraction, the exhibition rethinks art-historical canons and expands conversations around global modernisms. The exhibition keynote conversation on […]

The largest collection of Arabic abstract art is currently on display in Tampa at the Tampa Museum of Art. The exhibition called “Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s” contains pieces from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation. It features abstract art from the Arab nations, including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, […]

Watch<br>James Baldwin: Race, Media, & Psychoanalysis

Original program date: June 24, 2021. Watch a panel discussion around Joseph Lovett’s 1979 film profile on James Baldwin, interviewed by Sylvia Chase for ABC’s 20/20. Lovett moderated a panel with guests Victor P. Bonfilio, JD, Ph.D., Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California; Annie Lee Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst, co-chair of the Committee on Ethnicity, Race, Culture, Class, and Language (CERCCL) NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis; and Aisha Karefa-Smart, author, educator, public speaker, and niece of James Baldwin.

Watch<br>Michèle Wong, Conversation with Monica Marchese

In this wide-ranging oral history, Michèle Wong, Associate Director and Head of Exhibitions and Collections at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, shares highlights from her 40+ year career at the gallery in conversation with Monica Marchese, Graduate Intern. During that time, Michèle has served under three directors and worked on nearly 270 exhibitions featuring works by David Hockney, Frida Kahlo, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Parviz Tanavoli, and Andy Warhol, among many others.

Watch<br>Tracing: Inventing Downtown

Original program date: July 28, 2020. What is an art scene? How does one form? In this conversation, "Inventing Downtown" curator Melissa Rachleff joined a conversation with Director of NYU's Grey Art Gallery, Lynn Gumpert, and Maya Allison, Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery. Taking the exhibition "Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965" as a point of departure, the conversation explored questions around the definition and formation of art scenes.

Watch<br>Taking Shape: New Perspectives on Arab Abstraction<br>Session 3: Modern Art in Algeria and Egypt

Original program date: June 18, 2020. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, Arab countries were transformed through decolonization, the rise of nationalism, socialism, rapid industrialization, and wars and mass migrations. At the same time, artists were revitalizing their practices, finding inspiration in Arabic calligraphy, geometry and mathematics, and local topographies. Hannah Feldman, Associate Professor of Art History, Northwestern, focuses on abstract art in Algeria; and Alex Dika Seggerman, Assistant Professor of Islamic Art History, Rutgers University–Newark, on figurative art in Egypt. Moderated by Sarah-Neel Smith, Assistant Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, Maryland Institute College of Art.

Watch<br>Taking Shape: New Perspectives on Arab Abstraction<br>Session 2: Arab Abstraction and Arabic Letterforms

Original program date: June 4, 2020. Iftikhar Dadi, Associate Professor of History of Art, Cornell University, and Nada Shabout, Professor of Art History, University of North Texas, explore how the artists in Taking Shape “reterritorialized” the Arabic alphabet and made its aesthetic more accessible to the larger world, not only in detaching Arabic letterforms from Islamic calligraphy and religious history but also in liberating them from their semantic functions. In stripping Arabic letters of their former meanings, artists enabled them to signal modern (pan-)Arab identity and the decolonization of culture. Moderated by Pepe Karmel, Associate Professor of Art History, New York University.

Watch<br>Grey Art Gallery NYU @ Art at a Time Like This<br> Lynn Gumpert in conversation with Noel Anderson

Original program date: June 12, 2020. In response to the worldwide outcry against racial injustice, Art at a Time Like This presented a special program featuring Lynn Gumpert, director of the Grey Art Gallery at NYU, and Noel Anderson, artist and professor in NYU’s Department of Art and Art Professions. They discussed matters ranging from discrimination in education and the art world to teaching studio art remotely to the future of museum and university programming in the age of COVID-19.

Watch<br>Taking Shape: New Perspectives on Arab Abstraction<br>Session 1: The Barjeel Art Foundation and “Taking Shape”

Original program date: May 28, 2020. Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, discusses this independent, UAE­­­–based initiative, which he established in 2009 to study, preserve, and exhibit modern art from the Arab world, and to foster critical conversations about regional modernisms. Suheyla Takesh, a curator at Barjeel and co-curator of Taking Shape, discusses her role in organizing the exhibition, framing her investigation of modernism’s development in mid-20th century North Africa and West Asia within today’s rethinking of the canon of abstract art. Moderated by Lynn Gumpert, director of NYU’s Grey Art Gallery and co-curator of the exhibition.