press release

WAEL SHAWKY: Contemporary Myths II

BEIRUT - Sfeir-Semler Gallery is pleased to present Contemporary Myths II, Wael Shawky’s first one-person exhibition with the gallery. An opening reception with the artist will be held on November 25, 2010 from 7-9PM.

The exhibition Contemporary Myths II centers around Wael Shawky’s epic marionette animation film “Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File”. In a retelling of the first crusades from the years 1096-1099, Shawky has made a highly intricate film starring 200 year-old marionettes from the Italian Lupi Collection. This horror film of sorts follows the course of events after a Papal mandate sent half-a-million Franks on a military campaign to ‘reclaim’ Jersusalem from the Muslim armies. Mining this transformative historical moment for its profound resonance today, Shawky’s film examines the causes and effects of religious war and its impact on European and Arab relations while laying bare the question of who pulls the strings of history.

Installed across from the film is a scenography of the site of Aleppo, a complex diorama that includes the castle of Aleppo astride a river of oil set within an architecture of arches receding into a mountainous landscape in an off-kilter Renaissance perspective. Like the sets from his film, this scenography reveals the atmosphere and framework of Shawky’s tale of the crusades, where perception becomes distorted in a dream-like interplay between the natural and the man-made, the historical and the present. Alongside his film and installation, Shawky will present a series of superfine-grain photographic portraits of the cast of puppets from “Cabaret Crusades” printed on cotton paper. In addition, he will show geometric crusader flags made of tarmac, sandpaper and galvanized wire that hover between painting and sculpture. Also on view will be a suite of fantastical drawings in ink, pencil and metallic pigments that illustrate fairytale-like interactions between imaginary beasts, landscapes, architecture, and the natural elements. With this dynamic interplay of film, installation, drawing, sculpture and photography, Shawky opens up the texture of history and confronts this faraway time in vivid focus and tactile intensity.

Wael Shawky (born Alexandria, 1971) studied fine art at the University of Alexandria before receiving his M.F.A. from the University of Pennsilvania in 2000. His work has been included in the 50th Venice Biennial (2003); SITE Santa Fe Biennial (2008); The 9th International Istanbul Biennial (2005); Scenes du Sud II, at the Carré d'Art – Musée d'Art Contemporain, Nimes, France (2008); Mediterraneans at MACRO: Museum of Modern Art Rome, Italy (2004); Stile der Stadt, Grosse Bergstrasse, Altona, Hamburg, Germany (2006); Urban Realities: Focus Istanbul, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany (2005); among others. He has had one-person exhibitions at the Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy (2010); Townhouse, Cairo (2003, 2005), Ludwigsburg Kunstverein, Germany (2005). Shawky has received many awards for his work, including The International Commissioning Grant, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York (2005); The International Award of The Islamic World Arts Initiative, Arts International, New York (2004); The American Center Foundation Grant, Philadelphia (2004). Shawky lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt, and is the founder of MASS Alexandria, a studio program for young artists.

The marionette animation film "Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File" was produced by Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella Italy together with the Festival Theater der Welt of Essen, Germany. The project was made possible by Daniele Lupi and the Lupi Family Collection of precious 200-year-old marionettes, Turin, Piedmont, Italy. Special thanks to scenographer Paola Sommaruga.

MOUNIRA AL SOLH: Exhibition No. 17

BEIRUT - Sfeir-Semler Gallery is delighted to present the first one-person exhibition of Mounira Al Solh with the gallery. The exhibition will open on November 25, 2010 with a reception for the artist.

Exhibition No. 17 will present a constellation of three separate but interrelated chapters in Mounira Al Solh’s playfully conceptual art practice. In her singular sensibility, the artist will show a collection of paintings and drawings by her fictional character Bassam Ramlawi (with an attendant documentary film on him); a film titled A Double Burger and Two Metamorphoses: a proposal for a potential Cat, a potential Dog, a potential Donkey, a potential Goat, and finally a potential Camel; and a video installation of 19 Arabic Proverbs. Morphing between characters, speaking as herself and as others, Al Solh uses these three very different works to probe at the kind of language (both visual and verbal) that we inherit, invent, appropriate and impersonate, with a wild range of meanings and effects. Reaching into her own points of reference, the artist confronts art history, personal history, and a kind of mythical or proverbial history, scratching at the subtle traces of political residue within these histories.

Mounira Al Solh (born Beirut, 1978) studied fine art at the Lebanese University, Beirut before continuing her studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam (2003-2006). She was an artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam from 2007-2008, and in Munich at the Sudhausbau and PIN in 2010. Exhibitions include ‘Future of Tradition – Tradition of Future’, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2010); ‘Be(com)ing Dutch’, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven (2008); ‘Let’s Not Swim Then!’ Montevideo, Temporary Museum, Amsterdam; HomeWorks IV, A Forum on Cultural Practices, Beirut, Lebanon (2008); ‘As If I Don’t Fit There’ Lebanese Pavilion, 52nd Venice Biennial (2007); ‘2732 KM from Beirut’, Hebbel Theater, Berlin (2007); among others.

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Wael Shawky / Mounira Al Solh