Murtaza Vali

  • Ahmed Mater

    One of the standout collateral exhibitions during Art Dubai 2017 was by Saudi physician-turned-artist Ahmed Mater, based on his extensive research on the recent development and expansion of the holy city of Mecca. Conducted over a decade and compiled in his book Desert of Pharan: Unofficial Histories Behind the Mass Expansion of Mecca (2016), this work provided the foundation for Mater to create a rich, visually annotated timeline that simultaneously tracked the city’s history alongside that of mankind’s ambition to build the sort of grand structures that eventually became skyscrapers. For “

  • Tarek Al-Ghoussein

    Tarek Al-Ghoussein’s “K Files,” 2013, the result of an invitation to participate in Kuwait’s first national pavilion at the Fifty-Fifth Venice Biennale, is a series of photographs of key sites of nation building, from the iconic Kuwait Towers to its famous stock market—some now abandoned and in disrepair. His recent exhibition “Al Sawaber,” curated by art historian Salwa Mikdadi, was an in-depth photographic portrait of just one such site, the eponymous deserted government-housing complex in the heart of Kuwait City.

    Organized around a series of green corridors, the complex’s distinctive

  • Raja’a Khalid

    Drawing its title from a 1960 Looney Tunes episode featuring Road Runner, Raja’a Khalid’s “Fastest with the Mostest” continued the artist’s witty deconstruction of prevailing tropes of hegemonic masculinity. Specifically, the show mounted a critique of a neo-yuppie lifestyle increasingly taking hold in Dubai, exemplified by the figure of the expat consultant who splits his day between working and working out, performing both acts of what Khalid terms “conspicuous production” with a discipline and fervor traditionally reserved for religious rituals.

    The accompanying brochure identified Wile E.

  • “HERE: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists”

    Cultural institutions across Canada are marking the country’s sesquicentennial through exhibitions that revisit history and reexamine current notions of nationhood. “HERE: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists” is one of the most distinct shows to emerge from this initiative. Its unique character is largely owing to its venue, the Aga Khan Museum, an institution dedicated to showcasing pluralism through both its permanent collection of Islamic art dating back to the eighth century, and regular exhibitions of more recent art from disparate parts of the so-called Islamic world. Curated by Swapnaa

  • Mohamed Bourouissa

    Mohamed Bourouissa began his breakout series “Périphérique,” 2005–2009, after the riots that famously engulfed banlieues across France. Collaborating with friends and fellow inhabitants of the Paris suburbs he hails from, the artist created carefully staged tableaux vivants—borrowing compositional and lighting cues from paintings by the likes of Caravaggio, Delacroix, and Géricault—that captured eerie moments of undisclosed tension. By representing the viewpoint, lived experience, and urban milieu of the banlieues’ residents, Bourouissa’s depictions of and from the periphery did not

  • Amba Sayal-Bennett

    While drawing is the undeniable core of Amba Sayal-Bennett’s practice, this strong, self-assured exhibition, “Plane Maker,” provocatively and playfully expanded the field of drawing into other dimensions. The thirty-four small abstract drawings that were shown here, along with a pair of sculptures and an installation incorporating a projected image of a drawing, intuitively combine references derived from a broad spectrum of diagrammatic sources, suggesting everything from scientific schematics and architectural drawings—both plans and cross sections—to mystical charts and esoteric

  • the Sharjah Biennial

    AS PART OF the Sharjah Art Foundation’s push to expand its presence into more remote areas of the emirate, recent editions of the organization’s signature event have spread beyond its existing facilities to satellite venues across and outside city limits. This year’s ambitious Biennial goes a step further, extending the program over a year and dispersing it internationally across the greater region. Titled “Tamawuj”—an Arabic word that means “a rising and falling in waves; a flowing, swelling, surging, or fluctuation; a wavy, undulating appearance, outline or form”—the Sharjah Biennial’s

  • Singapore Biennale

    Reflecting the curatorial ambit of the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), the institution that both organizes and hosts the Singapore Biennale, the event’s fifth edition continued its regional focus on Southeast Asia, expanded this time to include work by sixty-three artists from nineteen countries and territories across Southeast, East, and South Asia. Titled “An Atlas of Mirrors,” and clustered by creative director Susie Lingham and a team of nine curators into nine somewhat unnecessary subthemes, the biennial suggestively coupled cartography as a form of knowledge with the mirror as a reflective

  • Robert Breer

    THE FLYING SAUCER, a whimsical UFO-shaped glass and concrete structure built in the late 1970s, is one of Sharjah’s stranger architectural icons. Recently restored and repurposed by the Sharjah Art Foundation as an exhibition venue, the structure’s unsettling temporality, at once futuristic and strangely anachronistic, made it a particularly apt venue for “Time Flies,” a retrospective of the work of Robert Breer. The influence of the American artist and experimental filmmaker is widely acknowledged, but his heterogeneous oeuvre—which includes pioneering experiments in many new media of the

  • Cristiana de Marchi and Monira Al Qadiri

    To say that Dubai is obsessed with its future is an understatement. Its ethos of unbridled development makes it, arguably, the test case for the type of visionary urbanism sometimes dubbed “Gulf futurism.” A Museum of the Future is in the works, and, as the city gears up for Expo 2020, the United Arab Emirates’ cabinet recently announced a comprehensive strategic plan for incorporating future planning into all aspects of governance. Cristiana de Marchi’s Future, 2016—an ice sculpture spelling out the word—could easily have been the centerpiece for a reception accompanying this

  • picks October 23, 2016

    Monika Grabuschnigg and Christine Kettaneh

    Through work that is visually and materially distinct, Christine Kettaneh and Monika Grabuschnigg subtly scramble assumptions and subvert stereotypes by smuggling unexpected references and meanings into forms and formats that appear, at least initially, familiar. In Mute Melodies, 2013, Kettaneh deploys the amorphous shapes of the parts removed when keys are cut as an arcane vocabulary, their undulating contours uncannily approximating Arabic script. Presented in a four-by-five grid, each laser-engraved plywood panel, whose surface resembles a sheet of yellowing paper, features a few neat lines

  • “The Artist as Activist: Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman”

    One of the first exhibitions of contemporary art from Bangladesh at an American museum, the two-person show “The Artist as Activist” confirmed the South Asian country’s place in the art world as it surveyed the politically engaged practices of artist couple Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman. While Lipi’s work takes gender as its central focus, Rahman’s tackles everything from the legacy of border disputes and their geopolitical ramifications to the plight of the disenfranchised and poor.

    Devoting a section to each artist, the exhibition showcased Lipi’s and Rahman’s individual practices while

  • picks September 09, 2016

    Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens

    The twenty-two whimsical sculptures that make up Montreal-based Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens’s exhibition “Measures of Inequity” look like the products of an especially dexterous arts-and-crafts class at a Marxist elementary school. Each translates a graph or diagram sourced from a scholarly journal that charts the unequal distribution of global wealth—resulting from neoliberal economic policies—into models ingeniously crafted from common household materials. Blond wooden sticks serve as axes, while brightly colored strings trace line graphs, stretched into and held firm by white threads

  • Fahd Burki

    Lahore, Pakistan–based Fahd Burki’s recent exhibition “New Works” marked a notable rupture in his practice: a dramatic shift toward near total abstraction. In the suite of subtle works on paper and canvas, Burki all but abandoned the playful but enigmatic imagery—graphic, at times comical, icons loosely inspired by archaic mythologies and future visions—that characterized his earlier work. The distinct black lines and flat, opaque blocks of vivid, occasionally neon, color Burki formerly used have been replaced by quiet compositions of basic elements—lines, grids, squares, circles,

  • picks August 19, 2016

    Gabriel de la Mora

    Gabriel de la Mora cleverly reconfigures collections of found objects scavenged from flea markets in Mexico City, where he lives, into pristine minimal installations that uncannily give form to experiences, processes, and forces that are otherwise nearly invisible. His current exhibition fills the space’s back wall with what initially appears to be a salon-style hang of small-scale monochromes, two small maroon panels, and the occasional glint of gold punching through a monotony of blacks, tans, and grays. Upon closer inspection, these works are revealed to be fabric screens from old speakers.

  • picks May 13, 2016

    Alwar Balasubramaniam

    Any clear distinction between the human and the natural in Alwar Balasubramaniam’s refined sculptures has become increasingly blurred since he abandoned Bengaluru, India, for his ancestral village in Tamil Nadu. His latest exhibition features a series of textured monochromes, the surfaces of which uncannily resemble geological formations shaped over millennia. A trio of cast fiberglass panels—two unique but similar works, both titled Rain in the midnight, 2015–16, as well as Under current, 2015—re-create rippled beds carved by water flowing over earth and stone. Graphite gives the surface of

  • Norman Lewis

    “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis” is the first comprehensive museum retrospective of the work of the noted African American modernist. Curated by Ruth Fine, the exhibition, organized according to six chronological themes, brings together ninety-five paintings and works on paper spanning five decades. Lewis’s earliest works demonstrate an observational social realism that focused on the denizens and street life of Harlem, where the artist lived and worked for most of his life. Experiments with Cubist fragmentation and Surrealist automatism led him to gradually decouple line from color, using

  • Haleh Redjaian

    Like the work of her elders Nasreen Mohamedi and Zarina, Berlin-based Haleh Redjaian’s austere but playful abstractions exemplify an alternative Minimalist practice, one that simultaneously engages and troubles the grid, not wholly dismissing its potential for supporting and generating ornament and pattern, and that expresses the weight of memory and affect through the strategic use of reductive nonobjective forms. Including works in pen, graphite, paint, and gold leaf on paper, in thread on handwoven carpet, and spatial installations created using thread,“in-between spaces,” Redjaian’s solo

  • Ashish Avikunthak

    Set in a location with few distinguishing qualities, in lieu vague, Samuel Beckett’s spare, minimal Waiting for Godot (1953) is in many ways an ideal transcultural text, easily adaptable to different geographical, cultural, and linguistic contexts. Using the play’s basic premise—two men wander an apparent wasteland interminably awaiting the arrival of a third character—as a starting point, Ashish Avikunthak’s seventy-nine-minute film Kalkimanthankatha (The Churning of Kalki), 2015, transforms Beckett’s absurdist postwar “tragicomedy” into a subtle postcolonial reflection on the idea

  • picks October 13, 2015

    Ana Santos

    The five untitled sculptural objects in Ana Santos’s impressive sophomore solo exhibition, appropriately titled “Stanza,” each serve as a discrete unit with its own internal rhythm that also resonates with the larger whole. Santos works with everyday materials and discarded objects that she finds and collects, combining them in subtle ways that preserve their unique materiality and hints of their former utility while opening them up to new formal and phenomenological readings. Her sculptures display a Minimalist restraint and a delicate, deft touch that suggest a sophisticated acuity toward