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.
During the last several decades, the work of the Outsider artists has come to the forefront of our thinking about the nature of art as their paintings and sculptures have made their way into fine art museums hanging alongside new and time-tested paintings and sculptures. To date, collector Gary Monroe has acquired nearly a thousand pieces of Outsider art, including works by Ruby Williams, Eddy Mumma, Frank Ritchie, and Jesse Aaron. An Irresistible Urge to Create includes 86 works and features objects by several self-taught artists from Florida’s West Coast and Central region. A publication accompanies the exhibition with an essay by Gary Monroe, a discussion by Boca Museum of Art Senior Curator Kathy Goncharov about the changing nomenclature of self-taught and folk artists, and a specially commissioned poem by Campbell McGrath about artists’ urge to create.
An Irresistible Urge to Create: Florida Outsider Art from the Monroe Family Collection is organized by the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
In 1998, Dr. Farid Karam and his wife Jehanne generously donated 149 archaeological artifacts to the University of South Florida (USF) Libraries’ Special Collections. For the first time since that donation, a selection of these ancient objects will be on view for the general public at the Tampa Museum of Art from November 11, 2021. In date, they range from the Bronze Age to the early Islamic period (ca. fifteenth-century BCE – thirteenth-century CE), and they originate from ancient Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, and the Arab world. The metal, stone, glass, and ceramic artifacts include cosmetic and medical implements, utility vessels, and oil lamps, as well as sculptures and figurines.
Farid Karam (1929-2018) was born in a Greek Orthodox village in northern Lebanon. After specializing in plastic surgery in Cleveland, Ohio (1961), he taught medicine at the American University of Beirut Hospital. Due to the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), he moved to Bay Pines, Florida. In 1992, Dr. Karam was appointed Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery at the USF College of Medicine in Tampa, Florida. He returned to Lebanon in 1999 where he continued to practice facial plastic surgery. Mr. Karam was awarded the highest honor for lifetime achievements, the Bronze Wolf Medal, from the World Scout Foundation.