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Critical Analysis of Art Module IV

July '23

Eastern Abstraction in Modern Art: Nasreen Mohammedi, Saloua Raouda Choucair, and Samia Halaby

Eastern Abstraction in Modern Art: Nasreen Mohammedi, Saloua Raouda Choucair, and Samia Halaby

In this course we will concentrate primarily on the paintings of Nasreen Mohammedi. We will also examine the work of two further prominent abstract artists, Saloua Choucair, and Samia Halaby. These women have recently begun to attract significant attention from the art world, not least because Abstraction itself, as a mode of Modernist art, has long been dominated by men. Furthermore, Modernist Abstraction is very much associated with Western art, whereas all of our artists are unquestionably—and unapologetically--“Eastern”: Mohammedi was born in Karachi, Choucair in Beirut, and Halaby in Jerusalem.

To consider just the question of geography for a moment, the (male) pioneers of Western Modernist Abstraction all started off as figurative painters who slowly and—as the story is told—heroically struggled their way to an entirely new and original form of art. Our three Eastern artists, by contrast, although they thought of themselves as working in the Modernist idiom, all grew up in areas where abstraction has been the dominant form of image-making for thousands of years.

In this course, we will attempt to move beyond the hegemonic Western narrative concerning Abstraction in Modernity. Our goal, however, is not simply to replace one set of Western male heroes with another set of Eastern female heroines. Leaving aside the questions of origins and “who did what first,” we will attempt to trace the ways in which, in the work of our artists, different strands of modern abstraction do and do not interweave with traditional Eastern abstraction. As we will see, the question is not one of superficial visual resemblance. Rather, we will search out structures and sensibilities within the artworks themselves, to trace the ways in which some of the grandiose tropes of Western Abstraction are refigured to create a subtly different art form. Modern art will never look the same to you again!

About the professor

Rico Franses

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