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Sikander’s spinning wheel

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Shahzia Sikander, Dissonance to Detour, 3-minute (approx) video animation projected at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. Click picture to see it bigger and go to flickr to see a few more shots of the animation.

After Black Floor yesterday I ran into the Fabric Workshop and Museum to see the Shahzia Sikander exhibition. The artist was in residence at the FWM and produced some new large works on paper. The one that stood out for me was an oversized book page (actually two book pages) that mimicked a miniature book but were wall-spanning in size. The imagery ranges from figurative to cartoony –all in one piece– with decorative motifs that include checkerboards, antlered deer, and abstract shrub-like affairs. I think they’re shrubs…they’re pink, yellow and white and have been rendered in a cartoonish fashion to look a little like brain tissue as well as ornamental plantings. (I don’t have an image, but look here at the FWM website for a write-up and some nice pictures of the paintings and a shot of the artist working on them.)

In an adjacent gallery, Sikander’s 3-minute (approximately, by my timing) animated video Dissonance to Detour creates a spinning cosmos of imagery that goes from incomprehensible to vaguely landscapy with touches of Islamic characters caught up in the swirl. The piece has a musical soundtrack of swelling orchestral affect with a decidely Western and (probably?) New Age affect. The whole thing is pleasant and seemingly less pointed and political than some of her earlier works.

In its beauty and use of calligraphic script as a decorative motif I am reminded of the Kutlag Ataman animations Libby and I saw at the Armory show. (I saw the Atamans again at MoMA in the Without Boundaries exhibit, of which more later.) The use of script in art is as ancient as art itself. However using Islamic script as decorative motif strikes me as somehow assertive, and emblematic of a new take-charge attitude to something once sacred that is now able to be questioned and dethroned, or if not dethroned, at least put to use in non-sacred context.

The show’s up until June 17. The artist’s reception and gallery talk is Friday, May 5, 6 p.m.

Also at the FWM, Lonnie Graham’s collaborative exhibition, A Conversation at the Table, (upstairs on the 6th floor) and that is on view until June 3.