Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s​ - Tampa Museum of Art

On view September 30, 2021 through January 16, 2022

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.​

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Composition, 1970

Mohamed Melehi (Morocco). Acrylic on wood, 47 1/4 x 39 3/8 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

White Cube in Brown Cube, 1969

Samia Halaby (Palestine). Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Untitled, 1970

Omar El-Nagdi (Egypt). Mixed media on wood, 47 x 47 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

City II, 1968

Huguette Caland (Lebanon). Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 39 3/8 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

The Last Sound, 1964

Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan). Oil on canvas, 47 7/8 x 47 7/8 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Composition, c. 1970

Mohamed Chebaa (Morocco). Wood (bas-relief), 98 3/8 x 59 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Untitled, 1983

Nabil Nahas (Lebanon). Acrylic on canvas, 47 3/4 x 36 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Al-Zahir-al-Batin (The Manifest, The Hidden), 1983

Kamal Boullata (Palestine). Silkscreen, 25 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Interform, 1960

Saloua Raouda Choucair (Lebanon). Wood, 23 5/8 x 12 5/8 x 4 1/2 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Les miroirs rouges (Red Mirrors), 1965

Ahmed Cherkaoui (Morocco). Oil on jute, 9 1/4 x 11 1/4 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Abstraction vert (Green Abstraction), 1969

Mohammed Khadda (Algeria). Oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 17 3/4 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Untitled, c. 1960–1969

Saliba Douaihy (Lebanon). Oil on canvas board, 19 3/8 x 23 1/2 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Credits

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s is organized by the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, and curated by Suheyla Takesh and Lynn Gumpert. Major support for the exhibition is provided by the Barjeel Art Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by the Charina Endowment Fund; the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust; the Grey’s Director’s Circle, Inter/National Council, and Friends; and the Abby Weed Grey Trust.