Art and Artists

A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession. Albert Camus

The Art of Violence–As violence sweeps the Muslim world, artists in Pakistan and Jordan respond to their changing worlds. Somewhere in Jordan, a woman is being served breakfast in a painting that features a “prophet” who is trying to lure people away from committing honor killings. “It is a bit controversial,” said Ali Maher, an artist based in Amman. “I want to shake society. I want to change the rules.”

Somewhere in Pakistan, the images of peacocks, curvy drapes, and droopy flowers engraved on steel, mask the suicide vests and missiles on the wall hangings that represent Karachi, a city plagued by terror and crime. “Life and death is so uncertain now… I wanted to camouflage the horror by making it beautiful,” said Adeela Suleman, a Pakistani artist. Read it at The Daily Beast

Nude Art Mag Riles Middle East–When the eighth issue of Jasad—a Beirut-based cutting edge art magazine—rolls out next month, it will be the face of criticism and denouncement throughout the Middle East.

“They think they own my freedom/I let them think so/And I happen,” writes Joumana Haddad, in one of her poems called I Am a Woman. Two years ago, Haddad made “happen” Jasad, an audacious magazine in the Middle East devoted exclusively to the body. A peek through the keyhole on its website reveals a moving line of classic and contemporary nude images. The busted handcuff, which dangles at the beginning of Jasad’s spelling in Arabic, symbolizes a break from veiling the body.                                    Read it at The Daily Beast

Suicide Bombers in Love–Young Iranian artist Arien Valizadeh re-imagines modern terrorists through the prism of ‘50s pulp comic romances.

What happens when classic American romance comics meet the nation’s worst fear—terrorism? Iranian artist Arien Valizadeh explores the possibilities in his first solo exhibition, Suicide Bombers in Love at the RVCA/VSAF gallery in San Francisco (through May 31). Seven black-and-white paintings that depict “terrorist romance” play out the sad inevitability of a jihadist’s love life. “What is the pulp fiction of a terrorist?” asks Valizadeh. Read it at The Daily Beast

The Rise of Islamo-Erotica–Ignoring the prohibition of nudity, Muslim artists—many of them women—are now defying religious tenets by painting naked models in pinup poses.

One of Hanan Tabbara’s most provocative sketches is a charcoal and pastel drawing of blood pouring out of a woman’s vagina. She made it after a close friend was raped, and later uploaded it as her Facebook profile picture. For two years now, the 20-year-old, political science student from Brooklyn has been drawing nudes. “I’m aware that it is prohibited but it doesn’t bother me,” Tabbara says.

While the Koran does not specifically ban nude art, the almost universal opinion of religious leaders is that Islam forbids it. However, a handful of Muslim artists have been daring to depict nudity. “This leads to moral consequences that are against Islam,” says Imam Shamsi Ali, the leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. “There is no justification to say it is allowed in the name of art.” Read it at The Daily Beast

Emergence of an India Wanda Sykes“Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a faraway land called India, I used to be a virgin,” Radhika Vaz tells an audience over tea and cake.

The show is called Unladylike and her New York spectators begin laughing and hooting–louder and louder as the narrative proceeds to thrash out everything people don’t talk about in polite company. Women are pioneers in every facet of life in India from politics to entertainment. But 37-year-old Vaz is probably the first to perform risqué sketches, which could revolutionize what Indian comedians can say… Read it at Huffington Post

Batman Comic Writer Renovates India’s Ancient Epic–A Scottish comic books writer is telling one of the world’s oldest stories as a new-age, sci-fi mythical narrative. The animated television series and video game, the creators say, will be like a “Psychedelic Lord of the Rings with Star Wars technology”… Read it at Huffington Post

“Our Beautiful Daughters,” Yoko Ono’s first art exhibition in India–Last year, India found out that its girls had reduced to 914 for every 1000 boys due to rise in sex-selective abortions. In 2001, the girls were 927. Regarded as financial and social burdens, thousands of girls are also killed after being born.

An installation of casts of women’s bodies fill up a large room. They lie like mummies, haunting and compelling, in dim light. Viewers can touch the figures of different shapes and sizes…Read it at SmartPlanet.

Staging a revolution–Speaking loudly into the darkened room of the theatre, Aly Sobhy, an actor and activist, describes his arrest after the military dispersed a demonstration in March. As he talks, he juggles three balls, beautiful in their formation but threatening to fall apart like the social groups that came together in the name of the revolution. Sobhy mocks the military’s pronouncement that Egyptians should be grateful they did not face a violent backlash. Several moments after he exits the stage, Aida Elkashef, a filmmaker, enters and recalls the story of 14 army officers joining their sit-in during a protest in April…Read it at The Caravan

The Baggage We Carry–An artist from Pakistan and another from India tell the same story in their works—of women in chains.

Gazing at the full breasts and amputated arms of a couple of steel sculptures at an art exhibition in New York is like reading an abridged narrative of the cruelty inflicted on women. They look like dented milk cans. A handle sticks out of their heads, a chain runs down their necks, and rusted shackles clamp their severed thighs down. The sculptures, by Nausheen Saeed, a 41-year-old artist from Pakistan, are part of an exhibition titled ‘Palimpsest’ at the Aicon Gallery in Manhattan, which shows contemporary Asian art.

As with most contemporary art coming from Pakistan, Saeed’s works too stem from the extreme violence being witnessed in a state where the rule of law has practically come to an end. Read it at Open Magazine

A Story Like No Other–Indra B Tamang came from a Nepali village that had a witch doctor but no electricity. In his 20s, he met an American poet who changed his life. For the past four decades, Tamang has lived in the iconic Dakota building in New York, and mingled with folks like Andy Warhol, Tennessee Williams and John Lennon. But that’s the past. Let’s flash forward to the present.

On a rainy day in April, a small room at the Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan was crammed with art lovers and well-wishers from the Nepali community, who were there to attend the opening day of Tamang’s photography exhibition, titled Charles Henri Ford and Indra Tamang Collaborations.

They jostled for space while peering at the black-and-white photos that were accompanied by haikus written by his boss, Charles Henri Ford, who died in 2002 at the age of 89. Poet, writer, editor, filmmaker and photographer, Charles led many lives and mastered many arts. A routine provocateur, the famous Surrealist poet co-authored America’s first experimental genderqueer novel, The Young and the Evil. The book, published in Paris in 1933, was banned in the US and UK until the 1960s…read it at The Caravan.

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