MOMENTS FROM 20TH CENTURY IRAQI ART

Project Space, Montalvo Arts Center

In view of the lack of knowledge but sudden discovery of and interest in Iraq's arts and cultures, the exhibition's aim is to present several and varied pivotal moments from Iraq's modern art history. The exhibition will function as the historical anchor for the contemporary events in the larger IRAQ: REFRAME series. The works include painting, sculpture, ceramics, and prints, and will be exhibited in two stages.

Part One: Nov. 3 - Dec. 22

Stage one includes pieces from the group of Iraqi artists known as the Pioneers. The Pioneers is the title given to artists of the 1940s and 1950s and comprised the first generation of professional and established artists. Their contribution to the development of modern Iraqi art cannot be over stated. These artists were instrumental in setting the standards and bases for the various art experiments and developments that followed. Moreover, their conscious desire to take part in building the new Iraqi nation as a coherent whole resulted in the creation of an iconography that is recognized till this day as distinctly Iraqi, in both form and content. This visual language, in accordance to philosophy and spirit of modernity and its concept of the nation-state, was based on selection and synthesis of what they believed constituted the "Iraqiness" of the various and multiple fractions of society, which was then merged into a single identity representative of the pluralistic whole. Most influential in promoting these ideals were the members of the Baghdad Group of Modern Art, Jama't Baghdad lil Fan al-Hadith.

Part Two: Jan. 20 - April 6, 2008

Stage two includes a number of artists known as the 60s generation. They are the artists who were taught by the Pioneers and thus nourished by the same principles that focused on issues of identity without abandoning aesthetic experimentation. Characteristic of their age, however, was change. Four of the artists presented here were founding members of the New Vision Group, al-Ru'yya al-Jadidah. The New Vision group was a gathering of artists united on intellectual and cultural rather than stylistic basis. The formation of the group followed the defeat of 1967 and was thus influenced by the same sentiments of denial and defiance expressed by all Arab people. It was also affected by the fever of pan-Arabism and desire for Arab unity. The group exemplified the manifest differences between the artists of the 1960s and those who preceded them as determined by more turbulent political realities. Further, the 1960s generation of Iraqi artists were an important link between the pioneers and the generations that followed. Curator Statement, Dr. Nada Shabout