27 December 2006

Unembedded, Shirin Neshat and Botero

There are three topics in art that I am particularly interested in right now. The first is the exhibition and book, "Unembedded," which features the work of four independant photojournalists (two American, one Canadian, and one Iraqi). I was fortunate enough to have an oppurtunity to see the exhibition at my school at the Elaine Jacobs Gallery (who is showing Emily Jacir's Where We Come From in March). Because my favorite professor, Dora Apel, helped to bring the exhibition and two of the photographers (Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson) to my school, I was fortunate enough to be present for two lectures by them in one day, the first in my Contemporary Art Theory and Criticism class and the second in the lecture hall next to the gallery. You can read my thoughts on the exhibition in greater detail in the article I wrote for the Metro Times (one of our "weekly freebies" here in Detroit).

The second area of interest is the work of Shirin Neshat. Because I have never been fortunate enough to see any of her videos (other than this clip on YouTube), so my primary interest is her photography, specifically the "Women of Allah" series. I recently did TONS research on her work, representations of the veil, Western representations of Muslim women, and colonialist history in the Middle East and North Africa for a research paper I wrote on her work, which I am still editing and updating. Neshat is an Iranian immigrant to the US who's early photographic series "Unveiling" and "Women of Allah" deal with her reaquaintance to the new Iran after spening the years leading up to, during, and following the Islamic Revolution. She grew up in a secular Iran, and was shocked on her return because of the heavy idealogical basis of the Islamic Republic. In writing about "Women of Allah," I concluded that those images, which are almost exclusively shown in the Western world because that is where Neshat lives and works and because the Iranian government has exiled Neshat, draw upon a visual lexicon that can't be understood without sufficient knowledge of both Islamic culture and Western ideas about Muslim women, making this work multicultural without submitting to all the pitfalls immigrant artists in the West are often succeptible to, namely attempting to draw parallels between their two worlds and recycling visual motifs of both worlds in their work.

The third point of interest is Botero's new series, "Abu Ghraib," which are about the soldier photography we saw back in 2004. My mom was sweet enough to give the book to my boyfriend as a Christmas gift, so of course I consider it half mine. If you have a passing familiarity with Botero's work, you might find this an odd topic for him, like I did. But in the foreward of the Abu Ghraib book there are several examples of other politically motivated artworks of his, most often related to South American struggles. His style of rendering figures as heavy, voluptouos and massive is somehow able to feminize the torture victims while simultaneously making the aggressors hyper-masculine. I just began looking at these images last night, and I am sure I will have a lot more to say once I've more thoroughly reviewed them. As with the other two topics in this post, I will continue to write and think about them, and am very interested in other's opinions.

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