Cross-Currents: Tradition and Innovation in Contemporary Art of the Islamic World

September 3 – October 24, 2012, IDEA Space

(closed September 26 — 30 for Colorado College’s block break)


What will Islamic societies look like in the twenty-first century? While political analysts make predictions, artists within the Islamic world also intervene in these debates, often with profound impact on cultural discourse.  As Robin Wright notes in the 2011 prologue to her book Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World, “The profound political stirrings are supported by a strong culture of change. … The social transformations are as pivotal as the political upheavals. Activists are not only adapting the technology of Facebook and Twitter to their causes. They are also experimenting with culture — from comedy to theater, poetry to song — as an idiom to communicate who they are and to end isolation caused by extremists within their ranks.” Focusing the lens on contemporary visual arts, Cross-Currents: Tradition and Innovation in Contemporary Art of the Islamic World presents the work of seven international artists whose work lays claim to and honors their varied and complex heritages, while simultaneously challenging accepted norms.

Part of a year-long series of exhibitions, performances, films, and events that explore the elastic capacity of the arts to challenge, expand, preserve, and disseminate aspects of global Islamic cultures, Cross-Currents examines the intersections between historical practices and contemporary artistic priorities. Employing a wide range of media, the seven featured artists each adapt or appropriate aesthetic strategies and themes from older Persian and Arab traditions to address contemporary issues including: the thin line between media coverage and war propaganda; the devastation of urban decay; the challenges of creating and maintaining sacred spaces within other cultural contexts; the experiences of exile and return; and the construction of gender identities in contemporary Islamic cultures.

The artists’ approaches to traditional themes and forms vary significantly: some engage directly with the past by merging traditional forms with contemporary media, while others merely hint at traditional aesthetic precedents. Yet while remaining culturally, aesthetically, and philosophically distinct, these artists commonly share the desire to probe the tension between the desire to honor the past and to subject it to intense interrogation. – Jessica Hunter-Larsen, Curator

Featuring: Azra Akšamija; Ayad Alkadhi; Shoja Azari; Reza Derakshani; Hayv Kahraman; Naiza H. Khan; Soody Sharifi.

This exhibition and associated programming is made possible by generous support of the Colorado College Cultural Attractions Fund, the Dean’s Office, and the NEH Professorship. Special thanks to: Leila Heller Gallery, New York; The Third Line Gallery and the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Shehab Gargash, Dubai; Rossi & Rossi, London; and Renaissance Creative.








Image: Ayad Alkadi
Will Not Be Silenced (I Will Not Be Silenced) 2011
Acrylic, pen & yarn on canvas (Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery, New York, NY)


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