Taking Shape - Exhibition Press: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Taking Shape - Exhibition Press

Media coverage of the exhibition Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980  at The Block Museum of Art April 28, 2020 to July 26, 2020

CAA Reviews
Taking Shape was no doubt an extraordinary opportunity to see an impressive collection of works, mostly paintings, drawings, and prints, by some of the region’s most prominent artists. A few of them—notably female artists of Lebanese origin such as Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916–2017), Etel Adnan (b. 1925), Simone Fattal (b. 1942), and Huguette Caland (1931–2019)—have become increasingly familiar to Western audiences in the last decade, but regrettably most remain unknown outside of their regional context.”
Dina Ramadan, August 4, 2020
Hadara Magazine
"This is really a reflection on how forward-thinking and progressive the institutions that are hosting the show are. Also, it’s important to note that we only work with university museums in America for two reasons. The first is that these are medium-sized museums and they’re much more malleable than larger institutions, which need years to put together an exhibition. The other aspect is the educational aspect—every single one of these museums will have symposia, conferences and talks, and they have the students involved, which is really important."”
Anna Seaman March 4, 2020
Apollo Magazine
"It is a real hit parade of work – some of it truly wonderful – from almost every country in the Arab world; Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Palestine are particularly well represented."”
Raphael Cormack, March 3, 2020
Gulf News
"There is no other way of describing these works than to say they are stunning in their originality."”
Fawaz Turki, February 26, 2020
"The exhibition explores meanings behind abstraction against the backdrop of what was happening in the Arab world during those decades, including decolonization, the rise and fall of Arab nationalisms, industrialization, wars and mass migrations, and new state formations."”
Gabe Herman February 20, 2020
The New York Times
"Because you read letters and images differently, all these marks that look like letters but aren’t quite legible trigger a buoyant feeling of open-ended possibility. It’s as if you’re inhabiting the artist’s own brush as it hesitates between writing and drawing"”
Will Heinrich, February 20, 2020
Geronimo Cristóbal
Beyond reprisal of traditional forms, the works tell stories of political conflicts: the rise and fall of Arab nationalisms, wars and mass migrations, and the oil boom that transformed the region. It is the awareness of political conflict that compelled these artists to synthesize traditional practices and confront their emerging Arabic identity. ”
Geronimo Cristóbal, February 13, 2020
Al-Fanar Media
"Taking Shape is a landmark exhibition not only for correcting misconceptions about the history of modern Arab art but for offering a multitude of prompts and proposals by which to view the history of a region."”
Heba Elkayal, February 7, 2020
Brooklyn Rail
The show hosts paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints that reflect the wide range of non-figurative art practices that reigned over and flourished in the Arab world over the course of four decades. These artists’ works expanded abstraction’s vocabulary, thus complicating its genealogies and origin, altering the way we view non-objective art, and urging us to expand what the Western world considers the canon to be.”
Sahar Khraibani, February 2020
Ultimately, “Taking Shape” shows that art history itself is abstract. It’s as hard to define as any painting on the walls “Art history likes to make categories that are nice movements, one following and reacting to the other,” says Gumpert, “but the art itself is much messier.””
Taylor Dafoe, February 5, 2020
The Hoya, Georgetown University
The touring exhibition represents a significant step in allowing art from the non-Western world to be presented on its own terms. That artistic ownership is significant given the controversies of how Western museums acquire and keep art from other parts of the world. ”
Faris Bseiso, February 6, 2020
Wall Street Journal
Flux and formation are primary here. Coursing through these extremely diverse abstractions is a vibrant interplay among numerous sources and voices. This show investigates the emergence of and various approaches to abstraction during a tumultuous period of decolonization, political upheaval, industrialization, the oil boom, globalization and wars. This is the cultural backdrop during the four decades under examination. But art has a life independent of—deeper and richer than—any contemporary landscape and its climate.”
Lance Esplund, February 4, 2020
Art in America
Tracing the development of regionally distinctive forms of abstraction, it presents a wider-ranging view of global modernism than that offered by Eurocentric art histories of the past.”
February 2, 2020
Arab News
The aim of the exhibition is to explore the development of abstract work in the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora via paintings, sculptures and works on paper dating from the 1950s through to the 1980s.”
December 31, 2019
The National (UAE)
With shows scheduled across five US academic institutions from January 2020 until September 2021, Taking Shape promises to challenge and broaden visitors’ ideas about origins and influences of abstract art, particularly in the Western context. “This is why it is important for the exhibition to be seen internationally, and it is great that we have an opportunity to take it to university museums in particular, where it can be used as a teaching tool,” explains Takesh. After New York University, the show will travel to Northwestern University, Cornell University, Boston College and the University of Michigan.”
Alexandra Chaves, October 16, 2019