16 April - 2 July 2017
LACMA, Los Angeles
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is pleased to announce Abdulnasser Gharem: Pause, marking the first solo presentation by the artist in the U.S. The exhibition is curated by Linda Komaroff, curator of Islamic art and department head of art of the Middle East at LACMA, and includes 11 remarkable works of sculpture, stamp paintings, prints, and film—all of which were created in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. For Gharem, seeing the World Trade Center destroyed on television was a horrific moment that seemed to make the world standstill, or pause; he learned soon after that two of the hijackers were former classmates. The fact that Gharem is a Muslim, an Arab, and a lieutenant colonel in the Saudi Arabian army will likely provide added resonance for an American audience, while serving as a reminder that terrorism is experienced on a global scale.
Gharem deeply absorbs the notion of pause into his work as an occasion to examine certain universal dichotomies that lead one to choosing his or her path in life. More literally, he has used the digital symbol for pause—a pair of solid rectangles—as a visual metaphor for the Twin Towers, which can be observed in the diptych Pause (2016), featured in the exhibition. Although the mediums and platforms for his work clearly borrow from the mainstreams of modern art, the narratives and images are drawn from the artist’s everyday world while many of his motifs, including geometric designs and floral arabesques, belong to the canon of Islamic art.
“Abdulnasser Gharem belongs to a pioneering generation in Saudi Arabia that has introduced a local arts community to the global discourse. Gharem is at the forefront of this movement, creating art in a range of mediums and techniques largely outside the traditions of painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture,” says Komaroff.
Abdulnasser Gharem, Camouflage, 2017, digital print and lacquer paint on rubber stamps on aluminum, 94 1/2 × 189 in., © Gharem Studio, photo courtesy of the artist and Edge of Arabia
Abdulnasser Gharem was born in 1973 in the Saudi Arabian city of Khamis Mushait, where he continues to live and work. In 1992, Gharem graduated from the King Abdulaziz Academy before attending the Leader Institute in Riyadh. In 2003 he studied at the influential Al-Meftaha arts village in Abha, and, in 2004, Gharem and the Al-Meftaha artists staged a group exhibition, Shattah, which challenged existing modes of art practice in Saudi Arabia. Since then, Gharem has exhibited in Europe, the Gulf and the U.S. including at The Martin-Gropius-Bau and at the Venice, Sharjah, and Berlin Biennales.
Gharem’s vocational path embraces the polarities of artist and soldier. Although he has had no formal art training, as a commissioned officer he found time to study on his own—learning about 20th-century art through the internet—and to form a cooperative venture with other artists, which in 2003 became the art collective Edge of Arabia. Cofounded by Gharem, the organization was intended to help support contemporary Saudi artists reach an international audience. Gharem is at the forefront of this movement.