Archive for March, 2006

New Art Exhibition opens at MoMA – Islamic or Not?

Non-Western artists have made quite a breakthrough in recent history, as far as becoming a part of the mainstream art world.  Five years in the making, the Museum of Modern Art's exibition proves that the canvas has definitively become even more culturally diversified.  The following is MoMA's description of their current exhibit from their website.   A photo slide show essay follows from Slate magazine, offering some insightful criticism of this complex and intriguing exhibition.   

Shirin Nishat-HandWoman

Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking
February 26–May 22, 2006

Art on left by: Shirin Neshat (b. 1957 in Qazvin, Iran, lives and works in New York)

RC print and ink, 67 x 48" (170.2 x 121.9 cm). Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York. © Shirin Neshat. Photograph: Larry Barns. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York

The Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA-NYC) has a write up on the Exhibit which appears below:

An ever-increasing number of artists, such as Mona Hatoum, Shirin Neshat, and Shahzia Sikander, have come from the Islamic world to live in Europe and the United States. Without Boundary brings together some of these major contemporary voices. The exhibition features the work of artists of diverse backgrounds—Algerian, Egyptian, Indian, Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Pakistani, Palestinian, and Turkish—across a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, video, animation, photography, carpet and textile, and comic strips.

The exhibition seeks to emphasize diversity by questioning the use of artists’ origins as the sole determining factor in the consideration of their art. To examine the various ways in which these artists’ works diverge from popular expectations, the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue examine the visual treatment of texts and miniature painting on one hand, and issues of identity and faith or spirituality on the other. The intention is not to imply uniformity based on a collective identity but rather to highlight complex, idiosyncratic approaches. Works by Mike Kelley and Bill Viola, two American artists, are included to prevent simplistic conclusions based purely on origin. Other artists featured include Jananne Al-Ani, Ghada Amer, Kutlug Ataman, the Atlas Group/Walid Raad, Shirazeh Houshiary and Pip Horne, Emily Jacir, Y.Z. Kami, Rachid Koraïchi, Marjane Satrapi, Shirana Shahbazi, and Raqib Shaw.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Fereshteh Daftari and Homi Bhabha (Harvard), with a prose piece by novelist Orhan Pamuk.

Here is an excerpt from Slate Magazine:

The conception underlying the show is confused and self-contradictory. Yet most of the art itself—including [this image] (shown above) by photographer Shirin Neshat—is powerful, original, stunning. It might seem captious to criticize a curatorial framework that brings mind-opening work to a wider public. But unfortunately, the show's context will shape perceptions of the art within it. The show's curator, Fereshteh Daftari, describes the exhibition's premises like this: "We often think of artists in terms of their origins. … This is problematic with artists from the Islamic world, particularly in light of the intense attention currently devoted to Islam from the West." Daftari points out that the Islamic world in fact "stretches from Indonesia to the Atlantic coast of Africa," adding that "Without Boundary sets out to look at the work of a number of artists who come from the Islamic world but do not live there. Only active consideration of this kind will slow down the race toward simplistic conclusions and binary thinking." Let me try to explain why, for all the curator's doubtlessly good intentions, the show's muddled premise does a disservice to its art.  No doubt, as Daftari writes, there has never been a better time to use an art exhibition to prove the diversity of Islamic culture. The dichotomy of a "clash of civilizations" that shapes American foreign policy is inaccurate and crude. The hope would be that such a show might reveal the delicate spirituality of Islamic art and that this disclosure might soften the impression of militancy and fanaticism as the sole qualities of the Muslim world. Alas, "Without Boundary" lacks the thoughtful complexity that would illuminate such tangled issues.

The complete slide-show essay compiled by Slate on this Exhibition can be viewed in its entirety here: East Meets West: Why MoMA's new show doesn't help us understand Islam. (by Lee Siegel).

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The Fearless Flyer…Trader Joe’s finds a home in NYC


The uncontained excitement exhibited by New Yorkers on the opening of the City’s first Trader Joe’s (an eclectic California grocery chain) in Union Square on St. Patrick’s day was something to write about – or so certain publications and media outlets did.  NY Times reported on “A Tiki Room with Aisles“, and Slate posted the “Insider’s Guide to Trader Joe’s“.  The secret is out on Trader Joe’s, AKA, ‘TJ’s’ to those who have had a longer term relationship with him — that it is overflowing with aisles of ‘bourgeois products at proletarian prices’ and people love it. 

TJ's Photo

(Trader Joe’s opening in Union Square, New York City – photo: NYT)

fearless.gifJust visit TJ’s or pick up their “Fearless Flyer” to sample their goodies.  Their selection of fresh produce, organic foods and ‘2-buck Chuck’ (‘drinkable’ Charles Shaw wines sold very cheaply – I have seen older, well groomed men in well to do suburbs of Boston and Southern Connecticut walk out with a case or two on many an occasion!), frozen delectibles, gourmet coffees & teas, unusual and large array of authentic sounding foreign foods and ingredients would send anyone flying down their aisles.  For many in California, it was first known as Pronto Market in the 1950s:(exerpt from Slate’s “Insider’s Guide to Trader Joes”)

In the ’60s, founder Joe Coulombe renamed the stores after himself, introduced the endearingly goofy nautical theme and Hawaiian shirts for all employees, and started stocking more upscale foods and wines… In recent years, the company has expanded to more than 200 stores across the country, but it remains privately held.

So for all of you financial fiends, sorry, can’t buy their stock…yet.  Trader Joe’s, found in almost all California counties, is also a neighborhood grocer in the East Coast metropolitan suburbs of Westchester (NY), Fairfield (CT) and suburban Boston.  For people in need of gluten-free, soy based, dairy-free specialty diets, Trader Joe’s is a lifeline.  All products carrying the Trader Joe’s private label contain NO Genetically Modified or Engineered ingredients.  It is more economical than shopping at Whole Paycheck, err, Whole Foods (now seen widely in most suburbs and 3 NYC locations), but perhaps not as ‘upscale’ or bulging with variety or bulk.  It has a down home, family friendly feel – which the clerks exude with much natural-ness.  They have a ‘clanging of the bell system’: 1 ding could mean price check, 2 dings: product check and 3 dings – need more cashiers!  It is quaint.  And kids get free balloons – which is ALWAYS helpful for that hassled mother or father shopping with a fiesty toddler, screaming: “wannah ballooooh” as they fish out their plastic money card, hastilly swipe it through and sign their incomprehensible electronic John Hancock, again with screaming child in tow…and then, voila, the balloon!  Smiles…and a great dinner is on it’s merry way home.

Reading the write-ups on the accounts of the giddy New York TJ’s shoppers, provided it’s share of giggles:

(From New York Times – Mar-18-06)

And thus the day went, Manhattan impatience mixed with dried hibiscus flowers, a specialty sweet of Trader Joe’s. “It’s my favorite store in the world,” declared Barry Lapidus, 47, a freelance writer in Brooklyn. “I used to take a train and a bus for two and a half hours to the Trader Joe’s in Hartsdale” in Westchester County.


“Why?” he exclaimed. “They have the best minestrone soup and egg rolls. The egg rolls are better than you can get in a Chinese restaurant.”

Loni Sherman, a retired food-service manager who lives nearby in Peter Cooper Village, said her friends were planning a Trader Joe’s party, at which mass quantities of Trader Joe’s products would be consumed at will.

Steven Arvanites, 40, a Manhattan screenwriter, had never been to a Trader Joe’s. “This is like a designer Costco,” he said.

Never realized how crazed people could get about their produce. That they stood in line waiting for an hour before opening time, is a testament to the lengths people will go to in New York!


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Gifts of Islam to our world…a little known history


1001 Inventions – Discover the Muslim Heritage in our World: 

Did you know that…

…the basic scale in music today comes from Arabic syllables do, re, mi, fa, sol, la and ti? The Arabic alphabet for these notes is Dal-Ra-Mim-Fa-Sad-Lam-Sin?

…Al-Biruni, the 14th century physicist was able to calculate the circumference of the Earth and its tilt 600 years before Galileo? 

…the first operation to remove cataracts was carried out as early as the 10th century Iraq. Muslims also established the first apothecary shops and dispensaries?

…Al-Khwarizmi, a Persian scientist and mathematician, is credited with inventing algebra as we know it today. He composed the oldest works on arithmetic and algebra. They were the principal source of mathematical knowledge.

A remarkable exhibition has recently opened at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (UK), charting 1000 years of Islamic innovations  and contributions to science, technology, art, including things we take for granted today in our daily lives.  Spanning the 6th to the 16th centuries and covering a geographic region from China to southern Spain, this project, tailored towards educators and school children shares a discovery of the Muslim heritage in our world. 

1001 Muslim Inventions

The Islamic civilization, according to the curators of this UK-wide travelling exhibition, has made an enormous but largely neglected contribution to the way we live in the west.  So many of the origins of Western discoveries came from the Muslim heritage.  It is heartening to know that there are individuals, groups and organizations which are unearthing the wonderful aspects of contributions to our world at large by Muslims centuries ago.  Many on this extensive list (top 20 are listed below or go to the site –, for in depth listing) are ones most of us probably never knew originated in the Islamic world.  Bridging the gaping abyss of misunderstanding, underappreciation and ignorance of such a rich history is truly and sorely needed in the tumultuous and fearful world we now live in.   

“When Europe was living in the dark ages, Islamic civilisation was blossoming, and the advances during this period are more relevant to the modern world than those of the Ancient Egyptians and Aztecs.” – Professor Mark Halstead, a lecturer in moral education at Plymouth University as quoted in the Guardian Unlimited, March 10, 2006.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Amazing Illusions…

Julian Beever

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Is this the real thing? Julian Beever poses with his chalk art

Is this the real thing? Julian Beever poses with his chalk art.

Julian Beever is a British chalk artist who makes 3D chalk drawings on pavement using a projection called anamorphism that creates the illusion, or Trompe-l’oeil (French for ‘deception of the eye’). His street paintings appear to defy the laws of perspective.


Besides the 3D art, Julian paints murals and replicas of the works of masters. Also, he is often hired as a performance artist and to create murals for companies. Julian is into advertising and marketing, as well. He has worked in the U.K., Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany, the USA and Australia.

Since 2004 a chain letter containing his art (sometimes mixed with similar art by Kurt Wenner) has been circulating the Internet. Many people have speculated that his work is a result of digital photo editing. These images are actually authentic. 

The illusion of the Portable Computer

drawn on The Strand, London.


Swimming-Pool at High Street.


Here we see the Swimming-Pool, drawn in

Glasgow, Scotland, but viewed from the “wrong” side.

These drawings only work from one viewpoint

otherwise the image appears strangely distorted.

wrong pool

Another great one…


Visit Julian Beever’s work on this site for additional astounding visual illusions!  His official site is at times not working….

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