Award-winning author crosses cultures with new art exhibit

  • Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 6:40 p.m.
    UPDATED: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 6:41 p.m.
Naifeh
Naifeh

The Columbia Museum of Art announces the installation of a new sculpture on Boyd Plaza this month and presents a major exhibition this summer by South Carolina-based artist Steven Naifeh.

“I combine influences from the history of Western art and motifs derived from Islamic art into powerful, large-scale and colorful abstract art. I am honored that this sculpture will be shown in such a beautiful way at the Columbia Museum of Art,” Naifeh said.

At 13 feet high and made out of galvanized steel painted a bright blue, “Jali” will enliven the Plaza with its high-energy presence and masterful construction. It is a bold example of geometric abstraction, a style expressing movement and dynamism using geometric forms. In creating this sculpture, Naifeh sought to fuse the Western desire for innovation with the Islamic tradition of locating absolute harmony. The name “Jali” is derived from an Indian word meaning “a perforated stone or latticed screen, usually with a decorative pattern using geometric shapes and sometimes calligraphy or floral elements.” The sculpture was constructed and fabricated in Columbia.

In addition, the art museum has organized the first retrospective museum exhibition of Naifeh’s paintings and sculpture entitled “Found in Translation: The Art of Steven Naifeh.” It opens on Saturday and will stay until Sept. 1.

The 26 large-scale works of modern art reflect Naifeh’s personal taste, preferences and attitudes about geometric abstraction that developed over the span of 40 years. Naifeh’s childhood in the Middle East helped focus on the rigorous forms of Arab and Islamic art.

For more than 1,000 years, geometry has been central to Islamic art and architecture. In his art, Naifeh achieves a synthesis of West and East as well as old and new, a blending of cultures recognized early on in the art he made here in America. His work represents universal harmony and attains this geometric symmetry beautifully with intellectual discipline, rigorous skill and authentic joy in the process of communication.

“Steven Naifeh’s art reflects and celebrates the dynamic nature of the Columbia Museum of Art to show art and its influences from around the world that inspire our imagination. We are pleased to bring another new outdoor sculpture to Main Street as it is sure to invoke a sense of excitement, growth and positive energy for downtown Columbia,” said Karen Brosius, the museum’s executive director, said.

Museum Chief Curator Will South said, “We all need to understand more about the world in which we live, and Naifeh’s exhibition is a smart, vibrant way of encountering Middle Eastern ideas.”

Naifeh has exhibited work throughout the Islamic world including Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Pakistan and the Muslim cities of Kano and Kaduna in Nigeria.

He studied art with the Nigerian artist Bruce Onobrakpeya, contemporary art with former curator of the Museum of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum Sam Hunter and Islamic art with Oleg Grabar and Cary Welch.

Naifeh and Gregory White Smith published the biography, “Van Gogh: The Life,” which was recently featured on “CBS: 60 Minutes” and was on several best book lists in 2011. The Columbia Museum of Art hosted Naifeh for a lecture and book signing in January 2012. They have worked together before, producing works such as Pulitzer Prize winner “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga.”

A full-color catalog that highlights Naifeh’s contributions to abstract and modern art will accompany the exhibition. The catalog, “Found in Translation: The Art of Steven Naifeh,” is now available for purchase in the Museum Shop.

Joyce Martin Hampton is the exhibition’s presenting sponsor, while Dr. Gregory J. Wych of The Hilliard Family Foundation Inc. is the exhibition’s supporting sponsor.

The Columbia Museum of Art, located at 1515 Main St. in Columbia, is open Sundays from noon to 5 p.m., Tuesdays to Fridays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It also open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., every first Friday of the month.

For more information, visit www.columbiamuseum.org.

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