Negar Azimi

  • “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

    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: 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

  • 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

  • “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: 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

  • 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,

  • “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: 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,

  • 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

  • film January 08, 2013

    Deep Six

    “She might have said, we were looking for a revolution in language. That would have been typical of her. I would have said, more like loitering in its suburbs. He would have interjected, could a comma really save the world?”

    -The Author

    “I think this transcript would make a terrible film, it’d be awful.”

    -The Circle

    ONE DAY, a circle got together with a girl called Amy and they schemed to make a book about experimental notation in music. Before long, the wind, a tiger, a mind, and a tree were roped in, and what came of it all was a film. A book, too. The film’s press release, itself a work of

  • diary November 19, 2012

    Separation Anxiety

    Just two weeks before the latest exchange of fire between Israel and the Gaza Strip, I traveled to Ramallah to serve on the jury for an art competition hosted by the A.M. Qattan Foundation—part of the larger Qalandiya International, a biennial event and collaboration among seven Palestinian arts organizations. While the situation on the ground has shifted dramatically since then—the political weather is always changing here—this latest reassertion of Israeli military force only underscores the importance of these fragile but enduring cultural institutions.

    THE PASSPORT COUNTER at Tel Aviv’s

  • REGIMES OF THE IMAGE

    ON AUGUST 3 OF THIS YEAR, Hosni Mubarak, the recently deposed and disgraced president of Egypt, was rolled out on a hospital gurney into an overcrowded courtroom and placed into the steel-mesh cage that is de rigueur for defendants awaiting criminal trial in Egypt. Dressed in a white tracksuit and with conspicuously newly dyed hair, he lay covered by a white sheet like a mummy while a prosecutor read the charges against him: corruption along with the premeditated murder of peaceful protesters during the January revolution that would eventually topple him. For several hours (with his sons in

  • Ardeshir Mohassess

    Ardeshir Mohassess's deceptively simple black-ink drawings provide an acidic chronicle—at once ironic, funny, and sad—of the social and cultural history of a country ill at ease.

    Since the 1960s, Iranian caricaturist Ardeshir Mohassess has lent his gaze to the absurdities of political life in his native Iran. Precious little has escaped his artful scrutiny; his pen has detailed the hypocrisy of the gluttonous Qajar dynasty of the nineteenth century, the abuses of the shah's secret police in the '60s and '70s, and the doublespeak of the architects of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Mohassess's deceptively simple black-ink drawings provide an acidic chronicle—at once ironic, funny, and sad—of the social and cultural history of a

  • TRADING PLACES: THE NEW MIDDLE EAST MARKET

    FOR THE WESTERN CRITIC, delirious Dubai makes the easiest of targets. What was only two decades ago a languorous trading post known mostly for pirates, pearl fishing, and gold smuggling has swiftly fashioned itself into the commercial and recreational hub of the Persian Gulf region—a haven of tax-free zones and corporate enclaves, home to seven-star hotels, indoor ski slopes, and megalith malls. The dizzying scale and speed of Dubai’s growth have led many to write it off as little more than a surrealist pastiche, a theme park, all fake, all the time. Architect Rem Koolhaas has dubbed this