Anila Quayyum Agha “A Beautiful Despair” at the Amon Carter American Art Museum




Beauty permeates the work of Anila Quayyum Agha.

For desperation, viewers have to look deeper.

Deeper into her education as a woman in a Pakistan that has become increasingly Islamic and hostile to the value of women. Deeper into her immigration to the United States in 2000, she came to Texas to experience the full force of the country’s post-9/11 discrimination against anyone appearing “from the Middle East.”

She overcame these hurdles, earning her MFA from the University of North Texas at Dallas, two grand prizes at the Art Prize in 2014, solo exhibitions in prestigious museums around the world, the Cincinnati Schiele Prize Museum of Art, a Joan Mitchell Fellowship and a Smithsonian Fellowship among many accomplishments.

His final honor: an exhibition of his installations and drawings at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort. Worth, Texas, “Anila Quayyum Agha: A Beautiful Despair,” on view through January 9, 2022.

Agha (b.1965; Lahore, Pakistan) channeled her desperation to see the daily tragedies of 2020 unfold into another stunning example of her now iconic lantern-shaped cubic sculptures, beautiful despair (2021), an in situ piece commissioned by Carter for this exhibition. The artist’s strength of will is revealed through his creation of a timeless and breathtaking installation during a period of personal and national angst in which millions of people – understandably – have had struggling to do anything.

Agha seeks to strike a balance in her “conceptually stimulating and aesthetically calming” work, here using motifs and motifs from her Pakistani heritage to build an inclusive sanctuary to address feelings of loss that have transcended cultural and geographic boundaries.

beautiful despair invites viewers into a triangular space gently bathed in pumpkin-colored light radiating from a large, intricately detailed cobalt blue cube at its center. Agha’s cubes are laser cut from lacquered steel, amazing with their tangible precision and intangible hospitality. The patterns and designs are clearly influenced by the lust for geometry and order of Islamic architecture.

A transport occurs no less overwhelming than that experienced upon entering one of the Infinity rooms–Although more solemn.

“I was basically criticizing organized religion in doing the cube project,” Agha explains in Carter’s catalog for the exhibit. “My intention was to expose the injustices perpetrated against women due to religious dogma, which is often based on incorrect interpretations of religious doctrine which reduce women to mere goods used for procreation and domestic servitude by the same men. that are supposed to make them feel safe. and empowered.

Beautiful despair.

A 2011 grant allowing the artist to travel to Spain where she visited the Alhambra Palace in Granada served as a starting point for the concept.

“At the palace, I became euphoric seeing the abundance of patterns and colors on every surface of the complex”, is it quoted in the catalog. “The Alhambra complex reminded me of the art and architecture of mosques in Pakistan, which I had only known as a tourist in my own country, as women are discouraged from praying in mosques. . I wanted to recreate a similar sense of belonging in my art, investigating the complex feelings of inclusion and exclusion that I had experienced at the Alhambra and Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, using light, shadows and the motives often attributed to women. “

Agha’s iconic suspended metal frames contain a single light source.

“This piece was a way to restore balance by occupying the often-regarded masculine position of an architect and using a structured geometric object constructed with materials often attributed to men,” said Agha.

Agha’s work regularly disrupts traditional male / female artistic roles, not more so than in her drawings, of which a dozen new examples join. beautiful despair– with the artist’s first hanging diamond-shaped relief sculpture – in the exhibition. His delicate and precise drawings are more accurately described as complex pieces of mixed media based on an abundance of time, hard work and technical mastery. They feature cut paper, metallic thread sourced from the artist in Pakistan, mylar, charcoal, embroidery, dyes and, most surprisingly, encaustic, a waxy material that is an integral part of textiles. Pakistani.

All of this dramatically re-positions the painstaking complexity of women’s manual labor as a fine art invite for focused introspection.

“In my work, the embroidery embodies the feminine presence and the pushing or pulling of the needle and the thread represents the domestic identity of women and their ambivalent relation to this identity”, Agha, whose mother taught her to sew around the age of five in order for the girl to have a skill, said.

Agha recalled a now funny anecdote about telling her mother she wanted to be an artist at a reception for her hosted by the Carter.

“I think my mother cried – she really cried – I wanted to be a painter at the time and she took me aside and made me promise not to be a painter,” Agha recalls.


“She said study textiles because at least you can have a job – that’s why I do all the fiber (job).”


Visit Fort. Value

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is one of Fort’s three world-class art museums. It is worth going to the Fort Museum of Modern Art. Worth and the Kimbell Art Museum. All three are ideally located next to each other and present exceptional temporary exhibitions to accompany their solid permanent collections. A century of oil, land and cattle wealth has enabled patrons and institutions in the region to acquire a caliber of art far beyond what one would expect.

During your visit, the newly opened, locally owned, 21-room Dryce Hotel, a converted dry ice warehouse, located in the heart of the Cultural Quarter, offers a short walk to museums, lavish barbecue-style Texan at Railhead Smokehouse BBQ and a hearty breakfast. Taco Heads tacos. The Dryce Hotel leans into the western, cowboy, and rancher vibe of the city, where cowboy hats and boots are more than cosplay with horse blanket curtains and faux cowboy robes. boy inside their contemporary furnished rooms.


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