GRAND RAPIDS, MI, April 17, 2018 – The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) announced today its concurrent solo exhibitions opening on May 19, Anila Quayyum Agha: Intersections and Mirror Variations: The Art of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. The exhibitions will be on view at the Museum through August 26, 2018. Both artists create work which draws inspiration from Islamic tradition and modern abstraction, creating objects of great beauty and depth.
 
Anila Quayyum Agha is a cross-disciplinary artist whose work explores cultural, social, and gender issues. She uses light and shadow to create work rich with patterns and ornamentation inspired from traditional Islamic architecture and design. In 2014, Intersections won the ArtPrize Public Vote and Juried Grand Prize, the first and only time in the international art competition’s history. Four years later, Intersections is returning to Grand Rapids.
 
“We’re thrilled for Intersections to make a bold return to the Grand Rapids Art Museum,” commented GRAM Director and CEO Dana Friis-Hansen. “It was exhilarating to watch GRAM’s ArtPrize visitors encounter the artwork in 2014, entering delicately from a side entrance, and discovering how the sculpture’s simple concept creates a complex experience. If you were alone it offered one effect, and if there was a crowd, the atmosphere was completely different; people of all ages and background could revel in the magic.”
 
Agha’s Intersections is an immersive gallery installation centered around a suspended cube. Each of the cube’s six sides are laser cut with the same delicate patterns, derived from decorative motifs found in Spain’s historic Alhambra, where every surface is covered with designs of Islamic art. A single light bulb within the cube casts shadows of interlacing patterns onto the room’s walls, ceiling, and floor—and subsequently the people within the space. In contrast to the artist’s childhood experience of being excluded from mosques because she was female, with Intersections, Agha creates a public space open to all.
 
“To some (visitors), it became a sacred, powerful place,” continued Friis-Hansen. “One couple got engaged within the installation—and to others, it was a space of discovery and exploration of light and shadow.”
 
Agha’s work will be presented alongside Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, an Iranian artist with an international reputation for sculpture and drawing that fuses traditional Persian patterns based in mathematics with geometric abstract art. Her work develops out of her interest in the serial progression of rectilinear forms, such as triangles, pentagons, and hexagons. GRAM's presentation of the two solo exhibitions is part of its commitment to highlighting works of art by diverse artists year-round.
 
"Monir Farmanfarmaian is one of the most fascinating artists in the world—truly an artist of the 21st century," commented GRAM Chief Curator Ron Platt. "She has moved between Iran and the United States throughout her life, and her art reflects aspects of each culture, in both look and content. More than anything, her work echoes a brilliant artist with a unique personal vision.” 

Farmanfarmaian was born in Qazvin, Iran in 1924. She has studied and worked both in Iran and the United States. Her art has been included in numerous solo and group art exhibitions internationally, including a one-person exhibition in 2015 at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
 
Mirror Variations: The Art of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian is centered around large sculptural reliefs with surfaces of cut mirror mosaic and reverse-glass painting. These materials were used extensively in traditional Persian architecture, an inspiration to the artist.
 
Works in Monir’s Convertible Series are multipart reliefs comprised of nearly-identical, interlocking elements which can be exhibited in a variety of configurations, each designed by the artist. One of the works from this series, Tir, 2015, recently added to GRAM’s collection, will be re-configured into the artist’s different arrangements periodically throughout the exhibition. Based on an ancient honeycomb dome design, the work Untitled (Muqarnas) unfolds like symmetrical mirrored wings. Rounding out the exhibition are drawings featuring complex geometric motifs in jewel-tone colors.
 
Complementing Anila Quayyum Agha: Intersections and Mirror Variations: The Art of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian are several related events and programming open to GRAM members and the public, including the Member Exhibition Opening, artist talks, a film screening, drop-in tours, and more.
 
About the Grand Rapids Art Museum
Connecting people through art, creativity, and design. Established in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the Art Museum is internationally known for its distinguished design and LEED® Gold certified status. Established in 1910 as the Art Association of Grand Rapids, GRAM has grown to include more than 5,000 works of art, including American and European 19th and 20th century painting and sculpture and more than 3,000 works on paper. Embracing the city’s legacy as a leading center of design and manufacturing, GRAM has a growing collection in the area of design and modern craft.
For GRAM's hours and admission fees, visit artmuseumgr.org or call 616.831.1000.

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