Artist Uses Rich Legacy of Islamic Motifs to Express Fears of Nuclear Iran and Extremism.
“Threatened Beauty“ – Works by Andi Arnovitz.
September 6, 2015 – January 10, 2016
Yeshiva University Museum
15 W. 16th St. near Union Sq., New York, NY 10010, 212-294-8330
Alluring, even beautiful; unsettling, even shocking – The New York Times.
The provocative work that caused a global sensation by meshing ancient Islamic art and modern political angst is coming to the US with an exclusive engagement at Yeshiva University Museum in New York.
In Threatened Beauty, American-born, Israel-based artist Andi Arnovitz, a Jewish Art Salon member, deconstructs Persian, Anatolian and Uzbek textiles, rugs and ceramics, to reflect on today’s nuclear arms race and political turmoil – and the tension between present-day Iran and the tradition of beauty it represents.
With controversy raging over the Iran nuclear deal, Threatened Beauty feels even more urgent. Arnovitz has said she is making a direct commentary on President Obama’s dealings with Iran through the exhibition, which made international headlines during its run this past spring at the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem. Arnovitz told The New York Times she would like to hang her work “on the walls of Congress” and make President Obama “look at this every night before he goes to bed.”
By manipulating traditional Islamic imagery into 35 lush circular collages and watercolors, Arnovitz also sensitively expresses deep-seated personal fears and global concerns about fanaticism, erosion of women’s rights, and extremist violence.
The works in Threatened Beauty “reflect this tension – the majestic beauty – the riot of color, the magnificent decoration, the meticulous craftsmanship of these arts which I so love on the one hand, and the potential for disaster and my own personal fears on the other,” says Arnovitz, an Orthodox Jewish feminist whose studio sits within walking distance of the Arab Souk in Jerusalem’s Old City. “There is a kind of terrible beauty here – a paradox, a collision of the past and the present, good and evil, a looking forwards and backwards all at the same time.”
Interwoven in these pieces are references to ancient Persian folklore, fables and fantasies, as well as subtle and not-so-subtle acknowledgments of contemporary politics, disasters and current events.
“They are alluring, even beautiful; unsettling, even shocking,” wrote Jodi Rudoren, Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times, in May 2015. “Some of the titles could be agenda items from the nuclear negotiations: ‘The Centrifuges Are Spinning,’ ‘Fission and Fusion,’ ‘Isfahan Is Very Quiet,’ ‘Making Uranium Ore Concentrate.’”
Images from top to bottom:
All That Is Precious, 2014. Archival print with pigment inks. This work was inspired by the destruction in March 2001 of two monumental 6th-century statues of the Buddhas of Bamiyan at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Making Yellowcake, 2014 Watercolor and collage. Yellowcake is a type of uranium concentrate powder. One of the first step towards enriched uranium, fuel for nuclear reactors. This image is based on a facility at Isfahan, Iran, which operates four nuclear reactors.
What Will Remain?, 2015 Watercolor, salt and collage. An evocation of the physical world landscape after the modern-day “flood” or post-nuclear holocaust. The artist points toward “A final, silent war on women. In the end what will remain? The salt from our tears.”
“We felt this was an important exhibition for people in New York and the United States to see – and now,” said Dr. Jacob Wisse, director of Yeshiva University Museum, who worked closely with the artist to re-conceive the presentation of the show in New York. “Normally, we would take considerably more time to adapt an exhibition from another venue and develop a curatorial vision that works for us. Not only does this series of work stand on its own, but Andi’s voice is so strong and her aesthetic approach so clear that there was not much for us to do but hang it on our walls. The show provides a clear-eyed evaluation of and reaction to the real values and threats of Iran and its leaders. Her work is beautiful, richly layered and absolutely devastating.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Andi LaVine Arnovitz, a conceptual artist, was born in the U.S. and holds a B.F.A. from Washington University, St. Louis. She immigrated to Israel in 1999 and lives and works in Jerusalem. Arnovitz’s art deals with the charged encounter between politics, religion, and gender, and with issues of religious coercion, oppression, and the silencing of female voices. These themes all find expression in her works on paper, in sculpture and installations, and in a variety of other techniques.
Her works have been exhibited in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Israel, and are included in the collections of the Israel National Library, the Library of Congress, museums, foreign ministries and private collections. In the U.S. Arnovitz is represented by the Shulamit Gallery in Los Angeles, and in Jerusalem, by the State of the Arts Gallery. Arnovitz is an invited member of the Feminist Artist Base at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and is also a member of the board of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem.