The Untitled Space
45 Lispenard St. Unit 1W NY 10013
April 12th 6-8pm
Exhibit on View:
Daily hours: 12-6pm
April 17 only: 12pm – 4pm
SYRA Arts and The Untitled Space are presenting a group show of contemporary Egyptian artists titled Debunking Orientalism from April 13th – 16th, with an opening reception on April 12th from 6 to 8pm. Debunking Orientalism will create a dialogue that challenges Western perceptions of Egyptian art. Curated by the renowned, Nagla Samir, the exhibition aims to give art enthusiasts and collectors an opportunity to explore the many layers of Egyptian identity and to travel through time, unveiling different styles and mediums in order to confront the preconceived notions that surround Oriental art.
Debunking Orientalism will celebrate the pluralism and dynamism of the contemporary Egyptian art scene and features emerging and established artists who live and work out of Egypt. Some of the artists engage directly with their surroundings, and others create an altogether unique visual vernacular. Artists exhibiting include Armen Agop, who works with black granite and basalt in his sculptures which have often been described as futuristic UFOs; Ahmed Morsi, who creates surreal landscapes and portraits that juxtapose features from Coptic, Pharaonic and modern folk Egyptian visual languages; Muhammad Mahdy, whose calligraphic, gestural paintings push beyond the boundaries of the textual; Farouk Hosny, formerly the Minister of Culture of Egypt, whose gestural, vibrant palette speaks the universal language of formalist abstraction in a cultural response to Western abstract expressionism and Marwa Adel, a visual artist using photography, conceptual design and calligraphy to examines the paradoxical facts that face eastern feminism. Designer Azza Fahmy’s jewelry will also be featured in conjunction with the exhibition and will have a special opening on April 14th, from 4 to 8pm. Other artists showing at Debunking Orientalism will be Adel El Siwi, Essam Darwish, Galila Nawar, Mina Nasr, Mohamed Ardash, Yasser Rostom, and Ramses Marzouk.
When one thinks of Egyptian art, the stereotypical Western association brings to mind museums and ancient artifacts, Debunking Orientalism, seeks to break this image by showcasing contemporary Egyptian artwork, which is not often seen in the United States. Pieces included in the show will foster discussions on creativity of expression and how it is affected by race, religion, creed and politics. Of the show, Samir states:
“’Debunking Orientalism’ is an exhibition that aims to create a new vocabulary in the hope of bringing a deeper insight to an old vision of the Eastern world, through Egyptian artists who are finding their own unique language that speaks to the universal humanity… It is important to explore how contemporary Egyptian artists have not only challenged the status quo, but have also expressed a genre of art so unique to the true culture of the Middle East that ‘Orientalism’ as it was constructed as a device of understanding the region, unravels as truly fictitious.”
More about Debunking Orientalism:
At the turn of this century, artists in Egypt were influenced by the open space strategy, the World Wide Web, and liberated from institutionalized art practice and most importantly empowered by independent cultural organizations that granted accessibility to individual cultural exchange. The Egyptian modern and contemporary artists have struggled to escape the heavy layers of imposed perceptions, and embrace their diversity to gain the freedom to interact as contemporary beings in a broader generic world. Traces of “Orientalism” are still evident in the very conscious of the Middle Eastern artists themselves and for some, it is a genuine component of their collective memory, while with others it caters to please the taste of the typical western audiences. The artists in Debunking Orientalism faced the challenge to gain the freedom of expression as contemporary beings in a broader generic world, while still embracing their complex heritage.
Works selected for the exhibition have the ability to resonate both locally and internationally, without pandering to the model of ‘hybridity,’ which is often the favored mode to view regional art. More recently, awareness has grown of the value in acknowledging the multiple changes taking place over different timelines around the world. Debunking Orientalism hopes to further that awareness and challenge perceptions about art in Egypt that still stem from Orientalist impulses.
About SYRA Arts:
Since its establishment in 2011 by Sylvia Van Vliet Ragheb and Randa Fahmy Aboul-Nasr, SYRA Arts has been dedicated to bringing cutting-edge artists representing the variety and depth of the Middle East to art lovers and discerning collectors. By introducing artists who express their strong roots in art that transcends cultural barriers, Syra Arts is at the forefront of conversations that pave the way to understanding and appreciating the exciting and forever changing region. Headquartered in Canal Square in the heart of Washington DC, Syra Arts continues to hold exhibitions for artists from Egypt, the Middle East, and Iran.