Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s explores mid-20th-century abstract art from North Africa, West Asia, and the Arab diaspora—a vast geographic expanse that encompasses diverse cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. Comprising nearly 80 works by artists from countries including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the exhibition is drawn from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation based in Sharjah, UAE. Inspired by Arabia calligraphy, geometry and mathematics, Islamic decorative patterns, and spiritual practices, they expanded abstraction’s vocabulary—thus complicating its genealogies or origin and altering how we view non-objective art. The paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints on view reflect the wide range of nonfigurative art practices that flourished in the Arab world over the course of four decades.
At the Tampa Museum of Art, Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s is possible thanks to a community sponsorship by Morgan Stanley. The exhibition is also supported in part by Colonial Distributing and George & Debbie Baxter in honor of Dr. Mudhafar Amin and Zahar Hadid.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Tampa Museum of Art presents a series of exhibitions focused on the achievements of women in the arts. HerStory: Stories of Ancient Heroines and Everyday Women explores the story of women in the ancient world through the depictions of goddesses, heroines, mythological characters, and everyday women in the Museum’s collection of classical antiquities. The exhibition highlights objects that speak to the role of women in the ancient world, their myths and stories, from Aphrodite and Athena to Amazon Warriors to women of the everyday. These roles are examined through the museum’s collection of statues, fragments, vessels, and objects from daily life.
Artist Dominique Labauvie (French, b. 1948) unites language,
both his native French and English, with image in his architectonic steel sculptures. Air Fer Mer, the title of the outdoor installation on the Sullivan Terrace, as well as the title of one the sculptures on view, reflects the artist’s play on language—“air fer mer” spoken aloud sounds like “éphémère,” the French word for “ephemeral.” Ephemerality embodies the essence of Labauvie’s art. Although his medium of industrial steel suggests a sense of permanence, Labauvie aims to capture fleeting moments in his sculpture—from the movement of light and shadows, to the passage of time and life unfolding around us. “Air Fer Mer” also translates to iron, air, sea—a fitting description of the objects’ relationship to the natural world. In this unique setting, four of Labauvie’s sculptures exist in harmony with the Hillsborough River and Tampa skyline.
The Classical World showcases Greek, Etruscan, and Roman artworks and artifacts from the Museum’s notable antiquities collection, supplemented with important loans from local private collectors. Ranging from prehistoric pottery and sculpture (dating from as early as 3000 BC) to marble sculpture and terracotta from the Roman Empire (dating to as late as the 5th century AD), the exhibition includes a particularly fine assortment of Greek and South Italian black-figure and red-figure vases. Important works in the antiquities collection are highlighted as part of the exhibition, The Making of a Museum: 100 Years, 100 Works.
Wolfgang Flad is a German artist living and working in Berlin. Born in 1974, he studied textile design at Fachhochschule Reutlingen and fine arts at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stuttgart. He has had numerous solo exhibitions in Germany and other European countries, and has placed his artwork in museum collections in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Primarily a sculptor, Flad is interested in “upcycling” previously used material, and in creating unexpected associations and connections between art and the natural world.
Kiss and Tell consists of some 30 individual wooden elements hanging from a grid in the Morsani Atrium. Each element has been coated with different types of paint and varnish, as well as with papier-mâché made from various papers dealing with art (critical texts, invitations, magazines, books, catalogs, etc). In this way Flad tries to bring the material back into organic shapes and structures reminiscent of the trees and other plants from which such materials first originate. According to Flad, this idea is close to that of the Italian artist, Giuseppe Penone, who has talked about “the hidden life within” in his peeled wood works that reveal delicate plants inside larger beams. Flad is also interested in the flora and fauna of Florida, where he spends time each year; some of his forms resemble mangroves and other plants from this region.
Generous funding for the framework used to hang this artwork provided by the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
Jaume Plensa is an internationally acclaimed artist who has exhibited his sculptures in museums all over the world. In locations as diverse as Seoul, Paris, Chicago, Bordeaux and London, Plensa’s monumental sculptures have reaffirmed the power of art to transform a public space into a community. This is aptly demonstrated in his first major commission in the United States, The Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park (2004). Two 11-story LED towers face each other across a thin pool of water, with images of a changing and diverse city reflected in the water, a continuously cycling metaphor for the life of a city.
The Crown Fountain was the beginning of Plensa’s investigation of the portrait via photography and form. This led to works like Laura with Bun. At more than 23 feet tall, this artwork expresses both individual and universal traits at great scale, inviting viewers to consider multiple aspects of beauty and human nature. Like all of his large-scale female portrait heads, Laura has her eyes closed, as if looking within. In speaking about these works, Plensa has said, “Look into yourself. My piece is a mirror to reflect your image, so you can think about your own interior—how much beauty we have inside of ourselves.”
Laura with Bun initially came to Tampa as part of the 2016 exhibition Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous gift and the overwhelming popular support of nearly 100 donors, the Museum has committed to purchase the sculpture for our permanent collection.