Dubai Lowdown: Must-See Exhibitions
L. N. Tallur, Interference (2019). 4K video, sound, colour. 4 min, 48 sec. Collection of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. Courtesy the artist.
As Dubai's Alserkal Art Week (12–20 November 2022) concludes in the popular Alserkal Avenue cultural district, Ocula Magazine shares its selection of must-see exhibitions around the U.A.E this winter.
Navjot Altaf: Pattern
Ishara Art Foundation, A3, Alserkal Avenue
14 September–9 December 2022
The strongest contemporary art exhibition at Alserkal Avenue is perhaps a solo show by veteran Indian artist and activist Navjot Altaf, curated by Sabih Ahmed, Ishara Art Foundation's associate director.
While Altaf's works, created since 2015, cut across traditional and new mediums, including sculptures, videos, and photo prints, their strength lies in the artist's incisive views of exigent issues that plague our planet, such as ecological deterioration and climate crisis, as well as the rare curatorial capacity to allow her work to speak loudly.
After all, Altaf's practice, lasting over five decades, has always pushed for art as a means of social change. Of particular note is the multi-channel video Soul Breath Wind (2014–2018), from the artist's in-depth research and first-hand observations of the ecological impact wielded by political, economic, and development policies in Chhattisgarh, a largely forested Indian state known for its rare biodiversity.
Martha Fiennes: YUGEN
Volte Art Projects, Warehouse 13, Alserkal Avenue
11 November–12 December 2022
Created by British filmmaker, writer, and artist Martha Fiennes, of the famous Fiennes acting family, the exhibition's key work, also titled Yugen (2018), features visually mesmerising moving-images on a floor-to-ceiling screen, relying on generative coding technologies and filled with fantastical landscapes.
Starring Hollywood actress, Salma Hayek Pinault, the video originally premiered at Venice Film Festival 2018, and was more recently shown in Art Dubai's new 'Digital' section in 2022.
Including new work related to the Yugen project, the exhibition dares viewers to immerse themselves in a very specific out-of-body exploration of reality and consciousness, with video works that move from one surreal image to another, as if they were alive.
Sterling Ruby in the Ullens Collection: Beyond Boundaries
Concrete, Alserkal Avenue
11–25 November 2022
Another crowd favourite during Alserkal Art Week is a solo exhibition of Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Sterling Ruby, whose works take on sinister societal conflicts. Who can forget Big Yellow Mama (2013), a seemingly cheery yellow patio chair-like sculpture, which was in fact a scaled-up version of an electric chair from an Alabama prison?
Since the pandemic, the darkness of Ruby's work seems to have found a wider audience for its themes that transcend generations and geographies. Unsurprisingly, the artist's large and looming signature spray paintings created since 2007, have drawn much attention, shown for the first time in the Middle East.
Curated by Jérôme Neutres, previously, director at Réunion des Musées nationaux-Grand Palais and president of Musée du Luxembourg, the exhibition includes a polyptych made of five large canvases totalling some 30 metres in length, rivalling the scale and ambition of major international museums.
Pop South Asia: Artistic Explorations in the Popular
Sharjah Art Foundation, Al Mureijah Art Spaces, Corniche Street
2 September–11 December 2022
Beyond the Alserkal art district, the well-loved Sharjah Art Foundation outdoes itself once again with a major exhibition surveying modern and contemporary art from South Asia, expanding the definitions of popular culture over more than 100 works.
Curated by artist and Cornell University professor, Iftikhar Dadi, and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art's director and chief curator, Roobina Karode, the exhibition addresses controversial themes with sensitivity and confidence, from the 1947 Partition of India to the Sri Lankan Civil War, and utopian and dystopian futures, via distinctly South-Asian lens.
Highlights include Jeanno Gaussi's Dreams On Wheels, Kabul (2013), painted with lorry art characteristic of the region, and Chandraguptha Thenuwara's Barrelscape (1998–ongoing), an installation of painted barrels resembling a checkpoint in Sri Lanka. —[O]