Textual Abstraction Within Transnational Modernism – Part Two

Explore how artists experimented with script in North Africa, West Asia and South Asia in the wake of independence movements  

This symposium will bring together scholars and researchers to explore an artistic current that transformed Arabic (including Persian and Urdu) letters and script into abstract visual forms across North Africa, West Asia and South Asia in the wake of independence movements and the rise of avant-garde groups and schools. 

The discussions will take a comparative transnational approach to explore the ways in which artists engaged with the abstract and expressive possibilities of script either independently or through the formation of “schools” (Khartoum school, Casablanca Art School) and movements (Lettrism, HurufiyyaSaqqakhana) at critical moments of transformation throughout the 20th century, particularly against the socio-political context of decolonization. This framework will open up questions around the development of transnational aesthetics of decolonization, as well as how these practices gesture at broader networks and spheres of affiliation, beyond national frameworks. 

Professor Salah M. Hassan  is the Director of The Africa Institute and the Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture in the Department of Africana Studies and Research Center, as well as in the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies, and also serves as Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities.  Hassan is an editor and co-founder of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (Duke University Press). He currently serves as member of the editorial advisory board of AtlanticaJournal of Curatorial Studies, and international Journal of Middle Eastern Studiesand served as consulting editor for African Arts. Hassan has contributed numerous essays to journals, anthologies, and exhibition catalogues of contemporary art, and has guest edited a special issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, entitled African Modernism (2010). He has authored, edited, and co-edited several books, including Ibrahim El Salahi: A Visionary Modernist (2013); Darfur and the Crisis of Governance: A Critical Reader (2009)Diaspora, Memory, Place (2008); and Unpacking Europe (2001); Authentic/Ex-Centric (2001) among others. Most recently, Hassan edited and introduced Ibrahim El-Salahi: Prison Notebook (MoMA and Sharjah Art Foundation Publications, 2018), and the forthcoming Ahmed Morsi: A Dialogic Imagination (Sharjah Art Foundation, 2020).  

Hassan has curated international exhibitions and Biennials includingAuthentic/Ex-Centric (49th Venice Biennale, 2001), Unpacking Europe (Rotterdam, 2001-02), and 3×3: Three Artists/Three: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z (Dak’Art, 2004), among others. He curated Ibrahim El Salahi: A Visionary Modernist was published in 2012 held at The Tate Modern in London (2013) after premiering at the Sharjah Art Museum in Sharjah, UAE (2013). In addition, he also co-curated The Khartoum School: The Making of the Modern Art Movement in Sudan, 1945-2016 (2016-2017) and When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965) (2016) funded by the Sharjah Art Foundation 

He is the recipient of fellowships including the J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship as well as major grants from Sharjah Art Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller FoundationAfrique en Creations, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Artsand the Prince Claus Fund. 

Professor Nada Shabout is a Professor of Art History and the Coordinator of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Initiative (CAMCSI) at the University of North Texas. She is the founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey (AMCA). She is the author of Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics, University of Florida Press, 2007; co-editor of New Vision: Arab Art in the 21st Century, Thames & Hudson, 2009; and co-editor of Modern Art in theArab World: Primary Documents, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018. She is also founding Director of Modern Art Iraq Archive. Notable among exhibitions she has curated:Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art, 2010; traveling exhibition, Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, 2005-2009; and co-curator, Modernism and Iraq, 2009. Major awards of her research include: Getty Foundation 2019; Writers Grant, Andy Warhol Foundation 2018; The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII) fellow 2006, 2007, Fulbright Senior Scholar Program, 2008. She is currently working on a new book project, Demarcating Modernism in Iraqi Art: The Dialectics of the Decorative, 1951-1979, under contract with the American University in Cairo Press. 

Nabila Abdel Nabi is currently Curator, International Art at Tate Modern, working closely with the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational. Previously she worked as Associate Curator at The Power Plant, Toronto, and prior to this as Gallery Manager at The Third Line, Dubai. Nabila has worked on solo exhibitions and facilitated new commissions by artists including Abbas Akhavan, Kader Attia, Omar Ba, Yto Barrada, Karla Black, Kapwani Kiwanga, Amalia Pica and Vivian Suter among others. She recently curated the exhibition Hold Everything Dear with Hajra Waheed at The Power Plant, Toronto and was previously Art Editor at literary magazine The Point. Nabila holds degrees from The Courtauld Institute of Art and University of Chicago. 

Professor Sussan Babaie teaches at The Courtauld. Her research has been supported by The Getty, The Fulbright and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She began her research (PhD 1994, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU), on the early modern period especially the Persianate-Islamicate world and has expanded its range to include a variety of topics including: on architecture, urbanism and urbanity (Isfahan and its Palaces, 2008, paperback 2018; and Persian Kingship and Architecture, 2015); on transcultural conditions of artistic production (The Mercantile Effect: On Art and Exchange in the Islamicate World2017; and ‘The Delhi Loot and the Exotics of Empire’, 2018); and most recently on the transmission of sensory experiences between the visual and the gustatory (‘Cookery and urbanity in early modern Isfahan’, 2018). She comes from a graphic design background (BA 1979, University of Tehran) and is interested in exploring the interdependence between deep history of art and contemporary artistic practices of Iran and the Middle East. This research includes ‘Voices of Authority: Locating the ‘modern’ in ‘Islamic’ Arts’, Getty Research Journal (2011); Shirin Neshat (2013); Honar: The Afkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art (2017); and in Slavs and Tatars (2017). 

Full programme available to download here

This Event is organised by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational in collaboration with The Courtauld