Rahel Aima

  • 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

  • El Anatsui, Black Block, 2010, aluminum, copper wire, 17' 2 3⁄4“ × 11' 1⁄2”.

    El Anatsui

    El Anatsui is the decolonial artist par excellence, known for rejecting Western modes and materials in favor of sustainability and indigeneity. It is with no small irony, then, that he should end up showing in Qatar, a country known for precisely the opposite. Organized by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, this major exhibition debuted at Munich’s Haus der Kunst last year and will travel to Bern, Switzerland, and to Bilbao, Spain. Despite Enwezor’s posthumous credit as curator of the next Sharjah Biennial, “El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale” bears the romance of being the curator’s last completed

  • El Seed, Mirage. All photos: Rahel Aima.
    diary February 28, 2020

    X-Files

    “MASHA’ALLAH,” exclaimed my fellow travelers upon learning that I was headed from Jeddah to the holy city of Medina: the Pakistani driver, the jolly Saudi desk agent, my Sudanese seatmate with bloodshot eyes. When I explained, in broken Arabic, that I would continue on to Al ‘Ula, a speck of a town more than a hundred miles away, they were less impressed. In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman set up the royal commission of Al ‘Ula (RCU) to develop the backwater’s breathtakingly preserved, UNESCO-anointed carved rock art of the ancient Lihyan and Nabatean kingdoms into a premier tourist

  • National Museum of Qatar, Doha. All Photos: Rahel Aima.
    diary November 08, 2019

    Gulf Clap

    “THIS CAMEL, we waited a long time for it to be born,” museum development specialist Karen Exell told members of the press one morning at the stunning new National Museum of Qatar, which opened this March. We were touring an installation on traditional Bedouin life, and here watching footage of the fuzzy creature lurch itself to its feet for the first time. The same might be said for the long-awaited museum, superbly designed by Jean Nouvel to mimic the angular planes of a gypsum rosette, or desert rose crystal, small specimens of which are available in one of two gift shops. Some of the floors

  • Amir Khojasteh, Study after the Romanian Blouse by Henri Matisse #2, 2019, oil on canvas, 17 3⁄4 × 11 3⁄4".

    Amir Khojasteh

    “There are only two styles of portrait painting: the serious and the smirk,” declares Miss La Creevy in Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1838). The former, she adds, is to be used for professionals and public figures, and the latter for private individuals, “who don’t care so much about looking clever.” Amir Khojasteh’s darkly comedic paintings are decidedly in the latter camp, but none of his subjects are smiling. In his work, humans and horses alike bear the narrowed eyes of exasperated hindsight. They have #regrets, and they turn to face the viewer like Jim from The Office, with side-eye

  • View of “Cursed Images,” 2019, Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer, Vienna. Front: John Bock, Hell’s Bells and One boot on a trip to hell, both 2017. Back: Joey Holder, Semelparous, 2019. Photo: Mario Ilic & Björn Segschneider.
    slant October 25, 2019

    Malison Wonderland

    THE TALL, OLD MAN is in a pine-paneled room, wearing a blue jumpsuit that emphasizes his height. He stands self-consciously between two rows of boxed tomatoes that appear to levitate in midair. Underneath the picture is a caption: This image is cursed—the four little words that every JPEG wants to hear. On October 28, 2015, an anonymous Tumblr user paired the tomato farmer with this incantation, and the phenomenon of cursed images was born. Similar photos were dredged up from the 1990s, 2000s, and the far reaches of the internet, proliferating across copycat Tumblrs and, later, Twitter and

  • “AMERICAN ARTIST: MY BLUE WINDOW”

    Curated by Sophia Marisa Lucas

    Blackness and blueness are intimately entwined in America. There are so many blue screens of death. The tension between the two, between black visibility and the violence of surveillance, forms the foundation of American Artist’s practice. The artist’s change to their legal name, meanwhile, grants them anonymity even as it works to overwrite art history, to make the default American artist black. Technology, like humans, inherits all the prejudices of its precursors. American Artist’s second institutional solo show will extend their consideration of systemic bias