Museum Shows

One lucky thing about living in Washington, DC is that there are a number of excellent museums. Another is that they are free. Went to the Sackler Gallery on Sunday to see a show about depictions of the Middle East. Iraqi artist Jananne Al-An created videos of the supposed barren landscape of the Middle East. Her point was that to many Europeans and Americans the Middle East is a vast and empty land without people.

Her piece, Shadow Sites II(2011),  is exhibited alongside a selection of extraordinary original prints by renowned archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1948). Comparisons about Herzfeld’s manufactured photographs showing empty and barren areas can be made to Al-An’s video from an aircraft that show military installations and manufacturing locations.al-ani

 

I got the point and the show did not hold my interest very long.

One building neighboring the Sackler is the African Art Museum on the Mall. We walked over to see a show there. This show also focused on the Arab world, except on the other side of the African continent.

Lalla Essaydi’s refined work belies its subversive, challenging nature. Moroccan-born, Essaydi became an artist after relocating from Saudi Arabia to the United States. She believes her work, with its intimate portrayal of Moroccan women, would not have been possible without distance from her homeland.

In the last decade, Essaydi has risen to international prominence. Though widely acclaimed as a photographer, few are aware she is accomplished in diverse media. Revisions brings together, for the first time, selections from each photographic series, rarely exhibited paintings, and a multimedia installation. While each work and genre speaks volumes on their own, from the ensemble emerges Essaydi’s personal narrative and critical reflection on her experience as a liberal Moroccan, Arab, African, and Muslim woman living across cultures. She sees her work as “intersecting with the presence and absence of boundaries–of history, gender, architecture, and culture–that mark spaces of possibility and limitation. This is my story as well.”

The best part of the show for me was seeing the art inside a “house” that the exhibitors created. You come to a gate where there is a key hold. You walk through the keyhole and feel like you are inside a house. The photographs hang all over the inside of the house, showing the women in various positions. The section is successful in making you feel like you are in a separate space, a unique look at the Muslim woman’s world.

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