NATALIE AND JAMES THOMPSON ART GALLERY
The exhibition program at SJSU is one of the most extensive and diverse among art programs in California, providing an essential resource for every single class that the department offers, while also serving as a cultural and educational focal point for the entire University and the communities of Silicon Valley. The main exhibition space is the professionally-curated Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery, in the Art Building, funded through the Natalie and James Thompson Endowment.
In addition to supporting major expenses for exhibitions, publications, and special projects, the Endowment also funds a weekly Tuesday Night Lecture Series that brings a remarkable group of artists, designers, and scholars to campus. Further, it provides funding for visiting artists and scholars for lectures, demonstrations, and critiques within individual classes. In addition to the Thompson Gallery, there are six student galleries and numerous display cases lining the hallways, which showcase the work of our undergraduate, BA, BFA, and MFA students. Student exhibitions change weekly throughout the academic year.
Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc
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Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc
The Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery is delighted to present the work of photographer Lalla Essaydi in a specially curated exhibition that will open on April 17, continuing on display through May 18, 2018.
Essaydi, born and raised in Morocco, also spent many years in Saudi Arabia; she completed her education in Europe and the US, and currently lives in Boston. Her work balances the conflicting world views and perspectives of the cultures of “East” and “West,” while, at the same time, these aesthetic explorations provide her with a personal avenue toward self-realization and self-identification.
This exhibition will include work from three series: Les Femmes du Maroc, Converging Territories, and Bullets Revisited. All, in different ways and on different levels, focus on the identity of the Arab woman at the apex of three competing cultural perspectives: that of anti-Western, protective constraints emanating from Islamic traditionalists who fear or denounce the cultural pressures of the West; that of patronizing Eurocentric Orientalist representations in which the East was exoticized and eroticized, exemplified by the 19th century paintings of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Eugène Delacroix, and Jean August Dominique Ingres; and that of nascent Islamic feminism, in which Arab women seek to take control over their own bodies, actions, and behaviors in a way that challenges both of the above two masculine-based perspectives.
Essaydi’s lush, elaborately-staged photographs sensitively and cleverly cross these cultural thresholds. In certain images elaborate calligraphic texts are overlaid upon the bodies, backgrounds, and dress of her female models; calligraphy was a sacred art reserved for men, but Essaydi subversively co-opts this tradition, as her calligraphy is drawn in henna, a dye exclusively used by women, particularly to celebrate such important female milestones as reaching puberty, marriage, and childbirth. In other works, Essaydi poses models in the style of the Orientalist paintings, yet the scenes are created with bullet casings standing in for the decorative elements, thus intermingling the private domestic spaces in which unveiled women can relax, with the environment of violence so often palpable in our public milieu. The artist has noted that through her photographs “I have been able to express, and yet, in another sense, dissolve, the contradictions I have encountered in my culture: between hierarchy and fluidity, between public and private space, between richness and the confining aspects of Islamic traditions.”
In conjunction with the opening of this exhibition, curator Tess Vinnedge will discuss how Essaydi addresses the complex realities of Arab female identity based on her personal experience: growing up as an Arab woman within Muslim cultures now seen from the very different perspective of an independent and internationally-recognized artist. Vinnedge’s lecture will be presented in Art #133 on Tuesday, April 17, from 5-6pm, and will be immediately followed by the opening reception for Les Femmes du Maroc in the Thompson Gallery, between 6-7:30pm. Both events are free and the public is encouraged to attend. We are grateful to Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York City for their gracious loan of the works for this exhibition.
Jo Farb Hernández
Bullets Revisited #26, 2014
Chromogenic prints mounted on aluminum
24 x 20” each
© Lalla Essaydi, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York