Expo 2020 Dubai will host Dimitri Vegas and Armin Van Buuren on New Year’s Eve

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DUBAI: A delicate figurative drawing by Kahlil Gibran was exhibited alongside Etel Adnan’s tri-colored painting “Planete 8” at Washington’s Middle East Institute. It featured the work of both established and emerging Arab artists, who have made their careers and lives in America.

“Converging lines: Tracing America’s Artistic Lineage” showed the long-standing presence in American cities of multidisciplinary artists from Egypt, Palestine and Sudan. It explored the interrelated themes of abstraction, figure, migration, war and occupation and all contributed to the canon for ‘American art’

There are approximately three million Americans of Arab heritage living in the US, but their knowledge is limited and often stays within Arab-American circles. According to Maymanah Farhat, the show’s independent curator/writer, institutional representation is a part of this problem.

Huguette Caland, ‘Corps bleu (Bribes de corps) ),’ 1973. (Supplied)

Arab News was told by her that advocacy is a key component of the art world. “The American art world is built on the principle that if there aren’t a group of people, including collectors, historians and curators, advocating for artists, then you won’t make any progress. It’s still dominated by white men.”

Black artists, for example, have also faced marginalization and neglect like their Arab contemporaries, but, as Farhat points out, the former have made significant strides in the last 10 years.

She said that it is not something one person can do and requires diligence. “We saw this with the recent emergence of black artists — there is actual care being taken but that comes from the decades-and-decades of black art historians, curators, and curators advocating those narratives. They also write monographs and produce exhibitions.”

Jacqueline Salloum: ‘SANE HIWE YA OKHTI ,’ 2017. (Supplied)

Considering the political climate of the past 20 years, the “demonization” of Arab-Americans is another concern, as well as misinformation. Farhat stated that she heard someone say: “I didn’t know Arabs produced contemporary arts .”

She added that “There is still that kinda strong power of Hollywood Orientalism in terms of capturing Americans’ imaginations.”

There have been some notable efforts to increase inclusivity, such as exhibiting works by Arab artists at international art fairs and auctions. However, there are still many steps to be taken to ensure full recognition in America, something that the MEI exhibition attempted to address.

The exhibition focused on three clusters of Arab-American artists over a 100-year period: the modernists of the 1950s-1960s; the ‘mid-career’; and the newer artists of the past 15 years. It began with drawings by the literary titan and grandfather of Arab-American art, Kahlil Gibran, who was born in Lebanon and roamed the literary spheres of Boston and New York for years during the early 20th century. Gibran, who was a foundational diasporic figure and writer, was the first to address the Arab-American identity. This topic is still a popular one for contemporary artists.

Farhat stated that Rumi and Gibran are two of the most popular American authors and it’s a funny thing to see them as mythical ‘Eastern men’. Gibran was very active in the American art scene. Gibran was active in the American art scene.”

The show’s title refers to the fact many featured artists have crossed paths, as well as shared aesthetics and interests. Farhat stated that the most common theme were artists asserting their identities and creating new narratives.

Helen Zughaib, ‘Circle Home Beit,’ 2010. (Supplied)

One of the most interesting artists on view is the late painter and critic Helen Khal, who was born into a Lebanese family in 1920s Pennsylvania, but decided to study in Beirut, where she would eventually become studio mates with Huguette Caland. explores colors and forms in an unnatural space in motion.

Farhat stated that the female painters could not be faulted. “You see their art and you’re totally blown away.” Caland left Lebanon in order to travel first to France and then to Venice, California, where she spent around three decades. She was eventually associated with the West Coast abstraction movement.

Meanwhile, Etel Adnan, who died last month at the age of 96, first started painting her now-beloved, dreamy Californian landscapes in Marin County, making her a true Bay Area artist.

Helen Khal , ‘Untitled’. (Supplied)

Honoring tradition and embracing new ideas, the late Palestinian printmaker Kamal Boullata, who lived in Washington for 30 years, was forever inspired by the calligraphy and mosaics of the Dome of Rock in Jerusalem, where he was born and forced to leave in 1967. Helen Zughaib, who fled Lebanon during Civil War, has a similar story. She is currently a US citizen and experiments with calligraphy, writing repeatedly the Arabic word “Beit” (home) to create her work.

Today’s Arab-American artists are vocal and bold, often using a variety of material and addressing serious socio-political issues. Take Michigan-born Jacqueline Salloum’s “Happy Birthday Dear Sister” — a white-frosted cake that looks pretty on the outside but is full of M16 bullets. Salloum interviewed a young Palestinian girl about baking birthday cakes, in which normal activities were not possible against the backdrop of violence.

Farhat, a Lebanese Mexican who is currently editing a publication about the art of Arab-Americans’, finds the show’s varied content to be very personal. She said, “I love all of them — there’s something unique in every generation.” “I love the sense of long-term that we are communicating with the show. I believe that every generation has created something we can look up to.”

Farhat hopes that the exhibition will communicate the idea of ​​Arab artists working with their US counterparts as peers and not the former only “influencing” them.

She noted that “Arab artists” have been involved and contributed. It’s not like they were in a particular city and were then influenced and influenced by other artists. They had their own style, techniques and contributions to the larger American art scene.”


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