Rahel Aima

  • Fatima Uzdenova, All About My Mother (detail), 2021, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable. From “Staple: What’s on Your Plate?.”

    “Staple: What’s on Your Plate?”

    “Staple: What’s on Your Plate?” the inaugural offering at Jeddah’s new Hayy Jameel art center, was a rigorous, generous show; spending time with it felt like taking a spoon to an avocado to scoop at the richer green layer next to the skin. The show went beyond the question in its subtitle, asking not just what’s there but how it got there. Curated by Rahul Gudipudi of Jameel and Dani Burrows of Delfina Foundation, the exhibition explored foodways from Saudi Arabia and beyond, with an emphasis on the port city of Jeddah’s rich cosmopolitanism resulting from centuries of pilgrimage to nearby Mecca.

  • Sujin Lim, Oil Painting (detail), 2019, five photographs with video (color, sound, 7 minutes 57 seconds).

    “Echoes: A World Between the Analogue and the Virtual”

    In the courtyard of Jeddah’s historic Qasr Khuzam, where Saudi Arabia’s first oil contract was signed, was Muhannad Shono’s simple ramp engineered from sand and soil. Titled The span and the divide, 2021, the installation graphed a slope from the ground to the compound wall, its geometric form slowly deteriorating over the course of the show. Inside the palace, several other works also indexed the passage of time. Hugo Aveta’s video Ante el tiempo (In the Face of Time), 2009, reverses footage of sand falling through a warehouse ceiling, as if in an hourglass. Darren Almond’s Perfect Time, 2012,

  • View of “Pacita Abad,” 2021–22. From left: Filipinas in Hong Kong, 1995; The Village Where I Came From, 1991. Photo: Daniela Baptista.

    Pacita Abad

    Born on the Philippine island of Batan in 1946, Pacita Abad was forced to flee Manila in 1970 owing to her efforts against the Marcos regime. Her peripatetic life saw her living and working in more than fifty countries on six continents, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Guatemala, Mali, and Sudan; she died of cancer in Singapore in 2004. Each place informed her work: through its materials and traditional craft techniques and through its particular ways of subjugating and marginalizing women. Particularly influential were the Tibetan thangkas, or sacred scroll paintings, she encountered in

  • Visitors to the first Diriyah Biennale view Xu Bing’s Background story - Streams and Mountains Without End, 2014. Photo: Canvas and Diriyah Biennale Foundation.
    diary January 27, 2022

    Stepping Stones

    “THE PRAYING MANTIS is eating my bees,” Moza Almatrooshi wails as we watch in horrified fascination. A second ago, the mantis seemed to be asleep; now, it holds its fuzzy victim daintily in its forelegs, taking thoughtful little nibbles as if savoring an amuse-bouche. The bee is part of the artist’s work in “Staple: What’s on your plate?,” the remarkable inaugural show at Hayy Jameel, a mammoth new art center in Jeddah. Dealing with food politics and sustainability, standouts include an austere ode to the migratory hilsa fish from Pratchaya Phinthong, chocolate sculptures from the Cercle d’Art

  • View of “Christodoulos Panayiotou,” 2021. Photo: Stathis Mamalakis.

    Christodoulos Panayiotou

    There was a doubling at work in this exhibition, “January, February, May, June, July, August, September, October, December,” which had a complementary iteration, “March, April, November,” in Rodeo’s London gallery. “I am bringing to London marbles from Greece,” the epistolary press release for the pair of exhibitions crowed. In the Piraeus gallery window stood nine colorful handblown glass vases, each one named for a month of the year. Inside, the stone-walled warehouse space was filled with objects that seemed unexpectedly transposed from somewhere else. The gallery’s back room was bisected by

  • Fatema Al Fardan, You can’t sit with us, 2020, photographic print on paper, 36 x 24". Photo: Zeashan Ashraf.
    picks November 15, 2021

    “In Response to Solastalgia”

    Installed in a restaurant that currently doubles as one of Dubai’s only off spaces, “In Response to Solastalgia” unspools the textures and timbres of alienation in a city characterized by its transience and demographic stratification. “How does it feel like, being a stranger in your own home?” the exhibition text asks. Terribly familiar, actually, but contra most others that take up the same subject, this group show, curated by Anna Bernice, offers a defter, subtler take.

    Distance is made intimate. Many works, like Almaha Jaralla’s lovely photographs of alleyways—overlaid with the Arabic word “

  • Installation view of “Prizing Eccentric Talents” at P.E.T. Projects, Athens, 2021.
    picks September 27, 2021

    “Prizing Eccentric Talents”

    From the street, I’m not sure I’m at the right address. A large frosted window is framed in two-tone blue, with Greek signage that reads ΖΩΓΡΑΦΡΙΚΗ. Google Translate’s camera function assures me that this means PAINTING. Probably a gallery, I think. Inside, I realize it is an installation from Savvas Christodoulides, who added a punny Greek Ρ to inject “freak” into the word. Projected inside under the window is Maria Papadimitriou’s 1992 video Slapping. It shows an artist at work being repeatedly struck, as if to suggest the cartoonish violence of art labor. Despina Charitonidi’s Keels, 2021,

  • Maitha Abdalla, Allure, 2020, ink-jet print, 31 1⁄2 × 29 3⁄8".

    Maitha Abdalla

    I have a visceral memory of crouching among the hanging shirts in a wardrobe as a small child in Dubai. Its wooden back falls away, and I am transported, not to the pink-tiled bathroom on the other side, but to fantastical worlds. In one, I’m clutching a helium balloon as it floats to the ceiling, with tiny me hovering several feet off the ground. I know that in reality these things couldn’t have happened, but they feel so intensely real all the same. Maitha Abdalla’s show “Scars by Daylight,” which traces the quiet irreality of growing up in the United Arab Emirates, conjures similar sensations:

  • Baya Mahieddine, Deux femmes avec vase fond jaune (Two Women with Vase and Yellow Background), 1997, watercolor and gouache on paper, 38 5⁄8 × 58 1⁄8".

    Baya Mahieddine

    Florals? For spring? Winding around and across stylized butterflies, birds, and sylphlike women in this long-overdue survey of the art of Baya Mahieddine (1931–1998), they are utterly dreamy, if not groundbreaking. This show, curated by Alya Al-Mulla and Suheyla Takesh as part of the annual “Lasting Impressions” series highlighting the region’s outstanding artists, brings together more than seventy paintings by the self-taught Algerian painter, who exhibited under her first name only. Hung against walls sumptuously painted olive, mustard, navy, and maroon, each color-drenched gouache or watercolor

  • Stephanie Comilang, Diaspora Ad Astra, 2020, HD video, color, sound, 5 minutes 25 seconds.

    Stephanie Comilang

    Every year, millions of overseas Filipino workers, or OFWs, send balikbayan boxes to their home country. They extend the tradition of pasalubong—bringing home gifts for loved ones—for a global labor system in which migrant workers spend decades abroad, returning only for occasional visits. These specially marked flat-rate boxes allow OFWs to send cheap, tax-free shipments to their families three times a year. The packages function as a kind of material remittance of time spent abroad and have become such a symbol of the Filipino diaspora that OFWs are themselves referred to as balikbayans. OFWs

  • Zarina Bhimji, I Will Always Be Here (detail), 1992, mixed media, dimensions variable.

    Zarina Bhimji

    In 1972 Idi Amin expelled eighty thousand South Asians from Uganda; among those who would eventually become refugees was eleven-year-old Zarina Bhimji. In her exhibition “Black Pocket,” that history unravels like the notes of an aromatic fougère, with sweetness morphing into damp mossy decay, faintly musty with spice. The survey spans thirty years and is a study in restraint: three films, three installations, three stand-alone photographs, and Untitled (A sketch), 1999, featuring three dresses, girlishly short, with Peter Pan collars, sewn out of maps of the subcontinent, East Africa, and Western

  • Vikram Divecha, Southwest window facade (cropped view), Gallery 354, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018, ink-jet print, 12 × 8".

    Vikram Divecha

    The heart of darkness, according to Vikram Divecha, can be found on the other side of the southwestern wall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Gallery 354 houses wooden figurines and ancestral objects from Melanesia. Its windows overlook Central Park but are screened over, and the room is dimly lit to protect its fragile contents; the darkness is especially apparent when one enters the room from the neighboring Greek and Roman galleries. Trying to photograph its contents, Divecha at first managed to shoot only blank images. This experience of failure is recounted through a meditative