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Wednesday, February 27,2013

Woman of steel

Broad Art Museum gets three new exhibits featuring diaries, geometry and metallic underwear

by Dana Casadei
Photo by Dave Trumpie Photography
Staying true to its contemporary theme, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum rotates in three new exhibits this week.  

First up is “Karachi Elegies,” created by Pakistani artist Naiza Khan, in her first solo exhibit in the U.S. The show focuses on Khan’s experiences in her home of more than 20 years, Karachi, Pakistan, and is curated by Karin Zitzewitz, Michigan State University assistant professor of art history and visual culture.

Zitzewitz, whose specialty is in the modern and contemporary art of India and Pakistan, had the job of creating the exhibit culled from six years worth of Khan’s work, starting with her first pieces in 2007. Zitzewitz said that it’s quite common for contemporary art museums such as the Broad to use guest curators to augment the expertise of the curatorial staff. Khan’s exhibit consists of two video works, three sculptures, two oil paintings and a series of seven photographs.

The pieces capture Khan’s experiences in the constantly changing city of Karachi, which has undergone major upheavals in recent years. Khan’s paintings and video work are described as “disrupted geography,” where she layers images and words.

At a lecture Monday evening at the Broad, Khan said that she begins working with a sketch and then “constantly dumps thoughts” onto the paintings. If she doesn’t like it, she simply paints over it. 

Her sculpture series, titled “Armour Lingerie,” is made from the artist’s clothing and out of galvanized steel. Imagine a lace teddy from Victoria’s Secret — then try to picture that made of steel, and with a few extra details, such as spikes. Khan takes outfits that aren’t normally associated with strength and power and makes them say, “I am woman, hear me roar.” Her pieces refer to the human figure without it actually being there, adding layers and meaning, showing that women can kick ass, no matter the outfit.

While working closely with a craftsman, each piece was hammered and then welded together. Khan said part of her inspiration for these was Rani Jhansi, who was a leading figure of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and that these pieces pay homage to Jhansi’s act of heroism.

“It’s an interesting paradox,” Zitzewitz said. “They look like they could flow in the wind but they’re steel and your mind imagines them as flowing clothing and understand that they’re solid. They’re both delicate and strong.”

Argentinian artist Guillermo Kutica’s “Diarios” consists of 17 pieces and a video of Kutica creating his work. The circular, 48-inch canvasses bring a whole new meaning to the concept of keeping a private diary — especially for those who had locks on theirs. 

Over a ranging time period, Kuitca draws and writes, on discarded canvases that have been stretched over a round table in his studio. He’s taken what, for many, is a book filled with their dreams, fears and thoughts and brought it out into the open. His “Diarios” (Spanish for “diaries”) are windows into the life of the artist, with things as simple as memos with phone numbers or lists etching their ways into his work. The table that he uses enhances the idea of letting people into his home, and bringing them into his. Each piece of art leaves marks and memories on the table; maybe one day the table itself will be in an exhibit, showing the mind behind the madness of his creations.

The third exhibit, “Geometries: Selections from the Collection,” is curated by Alison Gass, the museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art. The exhibit will showcase shapes, taking prints and paintings from five different artists: Josef Albers, Kenneth Noland, Bridget Riley, Sol LeWitt and Kristin Cammermeyer. Guests will be greeted by lines and shapes in ways they may have never imagined, making geometry much prettier, and more intriguing, to look at.

Math has been at the heart of abstract art for the past 50 years. The basic lines and shapes create pieces that invoke the imagination, letting viewers see what they want to, and question what they see, in the ever-changing creations in front of them.

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