Negar Azimi

  • Lydia Ourahmane, Finitude, 2018, ash, chalk, steel, inductor base stereo system. Installation view, New Museum, New York. From the 2018 Triennial. Photo: Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio.

    A LANGUAGE OF ONE’S OWN

    I HAD HEARD about Lydia Ourahmane long before setting out to write about her curiously affecting art, had heard about her improbable backstory as the child of an Algerian father and a Malaysian Chinese mother who had fallen in love at a school for evangelical Christians in the UK. I’d seen images of her work, too—invitingly minimalist installations perfumed by mystery, chaos, and accident. Our wide-ranging conversations began in the pandemic’s second year, and before long I had grown accustomed to the artist’s elliptical, zigzag patter. The vibe was both history lesson and séance, a seamless

  • “SHIRIN NESHAT: I WILL GREET THE SUN AGAIN”

    Curated by Ed Schad

    Shirin Neshat is a monument. For two and a half decades her work has graced legion exhibitions and book-length exegeses about women and artmaking in the Middle East. In her native Iran, she has inspired a million insipid copycats. In the West, she is regularly singled out as a spokesperson for the triumphs and tragedies of Muslim women. But to fixate on her monumentalization is to ignore the poetic virtues of her practice and commitment to exploring the legacies—personal and political—of revolution and exile. This exhibition, named after a poem by Forough Farrokhzad, Iran’s

  • “MARYAM JAFRI: I DRANK THE KOOL-AID BUT I DIDN’T INHALE”

    Organized by Jamillah James

    Maryam Jafri’s first solo institutional exhibition in the United States revolves around the vexed and varied histories of discontinued food products from the past century. Geared toward lower-income consumers, these motley, American-made products—Diet Pepsi baby bottles; Jell-O flavors for salads; frozen, ready-made PB&J sandwiches, and the like—offer up a fascinating window onto the commodification of desire. In a selection of work made between 2014 and 2015, the artist presents photographs and multimedia displays featuring reappropriated packaging from

  • Bhupen Khakhar, Window Cleaner, 1982, oil on canvas, 36 × 36".

    Bhupen Khakhar

    A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED KERFUFFLE erupted last May when the English critic Jonathan Jones, in a pithy and cantankerous screed in The Guardian, categorically dismissed an exhibition of works by the late Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar at Tate Modern as “a waste of space.” Khakhar’s paintings, in this critic’s view, were “emotionally inert” and “stuck in a time-warp of 1980s neo-figurative cliché.” The only reason they could possibly be on display, he conjectured, was “some misplaced notion that non-European art needs to be looked at with special critical generosity.”

    Jones’s article inspired a tornado

  • Emily Jacir, Lydda Airport (detail), 2009, still from the 5-minute 21-second black-and-white video component of a mixed-media installation additionally comprising sculptures.

    “Emily Jacir: Europa”

    For almost two decades, Emily Jacir’s works have served as enigmatic, stirring, and sometimes uncomfortable visual totems of the Palestinian situation. The general surreality of the Israeli occupation looms large across Jacir’s diverse sculptures, photographs, performances, and films. For her first major UK survey, the artist presents nearly twenty works from 1998 to the present. Included is Material for a Film (2004–), her mixed-media meditation on the vexed life of Wael Zuaiter, a Palestinian intellectual assassinated for his alleged involvement in the

  • Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, The Incidental Insurgents, Part 1: The Part About the Bandits, Chapter 2, 2012, HD video, color, sound, 6 minutes.

    Sharjah Biennial 12

    FEW BIENNIALS anywhere in the world are quite as site-specific as Sharjah’s. That term! It’s sprinkled like gold dust on just about any well-meaning press release, as if to imbue an exhibition with both purpose and originality. And yet site-specificity is meaningful in Sharjah, Dubai’s dusty, low-lying, syncretic sister emirate that is distinguished by—among other things—an endearing mix of Pakistani kebab stands, corner stores stuffed with all manner of knickknackery, and elaborate gardens in which the cheery words WELCOME TO SHARJAH are spelled out in red flowers. A cosmopolitan

  • View of “Unedited History: Iran 1960–2014,” 2014, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2014.

    “Unedited History: Iran 1960–2014”

    IN ONE OF THE CORNERS of “Unedited History: Iran 1960–2014,” a sprawling exhibition that opened this past May at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, an installation of five screens flickered. At its center was a 1973 film called Mogholha (The Mongols), directed by Parviz Kimiavi, which recounts the story of a fictional young director who rounds up a band of Turkoman tribesmen to play Mongols in a surreal retelling of the history of cinema. In one of the film’s more unforgettable scenes—and there are a few—the robed Turkomans in Mongol drag march through a harsh desert climate

  • Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Untitled (Sculpture 2), 2008, mirror, reverse-glass painting, and plaster on wood, 28 3/4 × 28 3/4 × 19 3/4".

    “Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility”

    Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian once traded Andy Warhol, for several of his sketches,a tiny ball she’d made from intricately cut shards of mirrored glass. Farmanfarmaian would move back to her native Tehran in 1957, but her diminutive sculpture would remain, decades later, carefully placed on a table in the late Pop artist’s flat. This fall, Farmanfarmaian’s elegant mirror ball, alongside some six dozen other pieces, including geometrically inflected drawings, vast etched-glass doors, and a new sculpture in stainless steel, will be exhibited in the most ambitious display

  • Mitra Farahani, Fifi Howls from Happiness, 2013, HD video, color, sound, 96 minutes. Bahman Mohasses.
    film August 11, 2014

    Burning Questions

    FRENHOFER, C’EST MOI, Paul Cézanne was said to have said about the principal character in “Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu” (The Unknown Masterpiece), a short story by Honoré de Balzac from the year 1831. In the little-known tale, two younger artists, Nicolas Poussin and the more established Porbus, spend time with Frenhofer, an aging master. As the three drink wine and eat smoked ham, they exchange thrilling ideas about art and originality, finally settling on the question of Frenhofer’s unrealized masterpiece, a painting that has been vexing him for years. When Frenhofer finally completes the work,

  • Morteza Momayez, poster for the 9th Shiraz-Persepolis Festival of Arts, 1975. From “Unedited History: Iran 1960–2014.”

    “Unedited History: Iran 1960–2014”

    It seems to be Iran’s modern moment. On the heels of the Asia Society’s well-received “Iran Modern” exhibition this past fall in New York, this survey brings together works from 1960—roughly the point at which the nation began a period of rapid urbanization and development—to the present. “Unedited History” is divided into four temporal blocks: 1960–70, the revolutionary period of 1979, the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88), and the years since. Together with this selection of fine arts, highlights from

  • Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2012, oil on canvas, 13 3/4 x 17 3/4".

    “Etel Adnan: Art is One of the Roads to Paradise”

    There are few lives that have charted the dislocations, tectonic shifts, passions, and innumerable heartbreaks of the modern Arab world more thoroughly than Etel Adnan. Born in Beirut in 1925 to a Greek mother from Smyrna and a Syrian father who served with the Ottoman army, she is a writer of searing, sometimes surrealist heights. A rare sort of polymath, she is also a distinguished visual artist whose work spans myriad media. In this exhibition—Adnan’s first large-scale retrospective—individual rooms will be dedicated respectively to painting, drawing,

  • View of “Welcome to Iraq,” 2013, Iraqi pavilion, Venice. On left wall: Kadhim Nwir, Untitled, 2011. On right wall: Kadhim Nwir, Untitled, 2011. Photo: Kate Lacey.

    Negar Azimi

    ONE OF THE WORKS IN THIS YEAR’S IRAQI PAVILION features a simple ink caricature of two men scrambling to capture a falling missile with what appears to be a stretcher. It is absurd and heartbreaking, and in many ways it perfectly captures the spirit and ethos of a country still deeply mired in the legacy of a war that began a decade ago. In the setting of a breathtaking sixteenth-century palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal, however, it makes for a strangely sublimated encounter with Iraq. Marked by dozens of resource books about the region in Arabic and English, homemade Iraqi cookies and oversweet