New York: ‘Islam & Modernism’ exhibition at Aicon Gallery

Islam & Modernism – a seminal exhibition by Pakistan-born, London-based conceptual artist and long-time activist and organizer Rasheed Araeen – is currently being presented at Aicon Gallery in New York. The exhibition at the art gallery takes as its core question the perpetuation of modernism in western art history as being purely ‘western’, where Araeen reflects on the reception of his own work through the latter part of the 20th century.

Further, there is reflection on the various essentialisms that delimited the reception of Araeen’s work at the time, where he is described as an “Islamic” from the 1970s, till Tate Modern declared his work as “pioneering Minimalist sculpture in Britain” in 2007. In a highly self-reflexive exhibition, Araeen talks about this contradiction where the definition of modernism does not include the modernizing influence of Islam.

In the exhibition, Araeen presents a new series of acrylic paintings, colourful wooden structures that act between a flattened surface and sculpture, and a neon light triptych. These works expand on and place themselves within the artist’s oeuvre, that extends from questions around formalism as developed through the course of the 20th century.

Araeen’s approach tries to challenges a highly Islamophobic contemporary political landscape that has its own vilifying narrative of Islam as a ‘backward’ and ‘violent’ religion.

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