Alison Syme

  • “Syria: A Living History”

    Visitors entering the Aga Khan Museum’s “Syria: A Living History” exhibition first encounter Deluge: The Gods Abandon Palmyra, 2011–12, a twelve-foot-tall, multipanel acrylic by Elias Zayat. A tempestuous image of shared flight, the painting evokes present-day Syria’s cataclysmic violence and the predicament of its refugees while simultaneously alluding to a richly layered multicultural heritage; flood stories are found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Qur’an, and the Old Testament. The work thus sets the tone for the exhibition as a whole, which provides a counternarrative to recent media depictions

  • Kristan Horton and David Armstrong Six

    In a world altered to its depths by human consumption, what will endure? Kristan Horton and David Armstrong Six’s two-person show “If by Dull Rhymes” seemed to propose that castoffs from our sinking ship have a salvageable future even if we don’t. Proliferating commodities provided the material conditions and inspiration for works of literally wasteful beauty, whose elegiac yet playful constructions craftily forecast human obsolescence.

    Armstrong Six’s delicately colored freestanding assemblages made of plaster, cement, steel, and other materials conjured an undersea garden growing out of ruins.

  • Vanessa Maltese

    A bright scarlet, life-size aluminum cast of an overturned Converse All Star lay on the floor, somewhat incongruously, below four large, circular oils on panel in Vanessa Maltese’s recent exhibition, “Birds flew down to peck at the painted grapes.” The show’s title referenced the story of Zeuxis, the legendary Greek painter whose lifelike rendering of grapes fooled birds into trying to eat the fruit, according to Pliny the Elder. Between the ancient grapes and the modern shoe, Maltese let us know that she’s playing the art-historical long game. Perhaps the appeal of this richly allusive work,