Rasheed Araeen

Going East

Hong Kong05 Dec – 16 Jan 2016
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  • Rossi & Rossi is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition in Hong Kong of Rasheed Araeen, one of the foremost avant-garde artists of our time. Going East will present a survey of his multifaceted artistic output, which spans nearly seven decades.

    Recognised as the father of minimalist sculpture in Britain, where he has been based since 1964, Araeen has also distinguished himself as a pioneering writer and editor of dissenting and revisionist discourse on art history, a champion of Afro-Asian artists vis-à-vis Eurocentrism, a visionary and passionate ideologue, and a groundbreaking performance artist. In short, his work has permanently reshaped the prevailing ideology of global art history. Going East traces the artist’s career, from his earliest abstract drawings to his recent post-minimalist sculptures.

    Trained in Pakistan as a civil engineer, Araeen took up painting and drawing while living in Karachi. The strict architectural geometries of his formative years later fused with his early abstract investigations, resulting in what were to become the earliest minimalist sculptures created by an artist living in the United Kingdom. Boats: Towards Abstraction (1958–62), a suite of early paintings on paper, provides a glimpse into this nascent period and foreshadows his landmark sculptures of the following decade.

    Structure No. 2 (1965/2015), a seminal and monumental work constructed of sixteen industrial steel girders, eroded the hierarchical compositions of the modernist sculptures of Anthony Caro and Phillip King who preceded him, heralding a distinct and egalitarian form that the artist synthesised in the following years in wood and thin metal structures. These structures are exemplified in Basant (1970), Burgundy Dark (1971) and (3R + 2B) SW (1971).

    Chaar Yaar I (Four Friends) (1968/2014) reveals the distinctions between Araeen’s cube structures and those of American minimalists, such as Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd. In Araeen’s forms, a diagonally bisecting element connects opposite corners of each cube face. The repetition and stacking of this basic component results in an undulating movement when circumscribed by the viewer. This movement can be traced to Araeen’s early drawings, as in Untitled B (1962), a suite of six felt-pen works on paper. By coopting elements of Kinetic art, the artist further distances his work from the rigidity of American Minimalism. The individual components of Chaar Yaar (Four Friends)are intended to be rearranged by the viewer, similar to the 100 elements that comprise Araeen’s monumental installation From Zero to Infinity, a work conceived in 1968 and staged with audience participation at the Tate Modern in 2012–13. These ever-changeable arrangements deliberately symbolise a different approach to minimalism by emphasising the social mobility needed in public space.

    From 1971 onwards, Araeen entered a radical and vibrant period, which, while confronting the Western-biased art establishment, also resulted in an output of groundbreaking performance and installation-based work. In Burning Ties (1976–79), eight photographs, installed sequentially, gradually reveal the artist’s image—a ritual rebirth through fire—and, at the same time, destroy a symbol of Western-imposed self-repression. Golden Calf (1987) andLa Grande Jatte (1991–94) employ what has become Araeen’s signature construct: two bisecting rows of photo-based art form a cross, referencing Christianity, which is then fixed with four green-coloured corners, symbolising Islam. Golden Calf juxtaposes Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe, a symbol of Euro-American masculine desire, with the silkscreened photograph of a crowd of mourning Iranian women, a stereotypical representation of non-Western female victimisation. The centre is occupied by the single image of a dead Iranian solder lying in a pool of blood, sacrificed to the female icon whose smiling face entraps him.

    Upon reestablishing a studio in Karachi in 2010, Araeen returned to painting, producing a new series collectively called Homecoming (2010–14), a celebration of Pakistani and Islamic modernist influences. From this series, In the Midst of Darkness 1A (2012) fuses the Arabic spelling of the names of key philosophers from an influential period of Abbasid philosophical development into abstracted polygons of pure colour in complex geometrical shapes. Not unlike Hanif Ramay’s calligraphic studies of the 1950s, Araeen’s paintings further this modernist idea within a broad trajectory that enunciates the great achievements of the Muslim world towards its own, self-defined future.

    Artist Page
    • Rasheed Araeenview
    • Rasheed Araeen
      Sculpture No. 2

      1965–2015
      Painted steel
      121 x 121 x 121 cm (47 ½ x 47 ½ x 47 ½ in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Basant

      1970
      Painted wood
      104 x 46 x 10.5 cm (41 x 18 ¼ x 4 ¼ in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      (3R+2B)SW

      1971
      Painted wood
      77 x 75.5 x 15.5 cm (30 ¼ x 29 ¾ x 6 in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Burgundy Dark

      1971
      Acrylic on wood
      104 x 69 x 14.5 cm (41 x 27 ¼ x 5 ¾ in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Burning Ties

      1976-79
      Eight colour photographs
      Each 75 x 50 cm (29 ¾ x 19 ¾ in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      In the Midst of Darkness 2A

      2012
      Acrylic on canvas
      114.3 x 139.7 cm (45 x 55 in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Chaar Yaar I (Four Friends)

      1968/2014
      Acrylic on wood
      each 61 x 61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 x 24 in), 4 pieces total

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Boats: Towards Abstraction

      1958-62
      Watercolour, pastel and ink on paper
      Dimensions variable

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      The One that Could Not Float Away

      1970
      Photographs
      each 63.5 x 63.5 cm (25 x 25 in), four works in total

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      La Grade Jatte

      1991–4
      Mixed media
      175 x 220 cm (69 x 86 ½ in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Mill Gaye Phir Chaaron Yaar (Have Met Again, Four Friends)

      1968–2015
      Wood and household emulsion
      86 x 250 x 178 cm (34 ½ x 100 ¾ x 70 ¼ in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Go On, Sing the Blues, Again

      2015
      Wood and household emulsion
      each 30.5 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm (12 x 12x 12 in), 27 cubes in total

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      The Caribbean/Asthesis

      2008
      Pen and ink on printed map
      104 x 70 cm (41 x 27 ¾ in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      In the Midst of Darkness 3A

      2012
      Acrylic on canvas
      114.3 x 139.7 cm (45 x 55 in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Golden Calf

      1987
      Mixed media
      151.8 x 178.4 cm (59 ¾ x 70 ¼ in)

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    • Rasheed Araeen
      Untitled B

      1962
      Felt pen on paper
      each approx. 25.5 x 34 cm (10 x 13 ½ in), six drawings in total

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