A former lieutenant colonel in the Saudi Arabian Army, Abdulnasser Gharem is also one of the most influential artists coming from the Gulf area. His links to one of the military forces in the Middle East, but also his artworks that examine the cannons of Islamic art, make him an intriguing figure for the US audiences. The exhibition of Abdulnasser Gharem art titled Abdulnasser Gharem: Pause, will be held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Being his first solo show in the US, it comprises of works created after the events of Spetember 11th, 2001, including 11 remarkable works of sculpture, film, prints, and stamp paintings.
The show Abdulnasser Gharem: Pause is curated by Linda Komaroff, curator of Islamic art and department head of art of the Middle East at LACMA. As she explains, he belongs to a group of artists from the Gulf who are changing the art map in the region. He also helped include local scene in the global art discourse and is known for his use of a range of mediums. “Abdulnasser Gharem belongs to a pioneering generation in Saudi Arabia... creating art in a range of mediums and techniques largely outside the traditions of painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture,” asserts Komaroff.
In the Pause exhibition, the visitors will be able to see his art created after 9/11, when for him, and many people around the globe, it seemed that the world has come to a standstill. He included the notion of pause into his work, as it helped him to observe certain dichotomies that lead to choosing one’s path in life. He also uses the digital symbol for pause in his artworks, as is the case with the piece Pause (2016) where two rectangles from the sign stand as visual metaphors of the Twin Towers. Drawing from many sources, Abdulnasser Gharem combines elements from modern and contemporary art, images and stories from his everyday life in his artworks, along with floral arabesques and geometric designs from the canon of Islamic art.
Abdulnasser Gharem was born in Khamis Mushait in 1973, where he lives and works today. He finished the King Abdulaziz Academy in 1992, and moved to study at the Leader Institute in Riyadh. His artistic career continued at the influential Al-Meftaha arts village in Abha, which marked a turning point in his career. In 2004, Gharem staged a group show together with other artists from the Al-Meftaha, which challenged the existing modes of art practice in Saudi Arabia. Making such drastic move meant that Gharem caught international attention as well, so he soon started to exhibit in Europe, the Gulf and the USA, including Venice, Sharjah and Berlin Biennales.
Today, Abdulnasser Gharem is considered one of the leading artists in the Gulf. His work reflects on multiple issues surrounding the topic of Islamic cultural identity and tries to break some sedimented modes of its representation. He is also interested in novel ways of thinking about identity, and has embraced modern day knowledge and thought, which is reflected in his artworks as well. Well-known for his use of arabesques and geometric patterns, he merges them in order to stress the importance of unity in the Islamic world, beyond the barriers that create social disruption and disparity.
The Abdulnasser Gharem: Pause exhibition will be on display in the Ahmanson Building, Level 4, at LACMA In Los Angeles, with the artist’s newly created large-scale piece, Camouflage, 2017, installed in the lobby of the Ahmanson Building, on Level 1. The show opens on April 16th and will be on view through July 2nd, 2017.
Featured image: Abdulnasser Gharem - Hemisphere, 2017, polyurethane with sand cast bronze and aluminum inlay, © Gharem Studio, © Gharem Studio, photo courtesy of Gharem Studio. All images courtesy of LACMA.