Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and the Islamic Tradition

Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and the Islamic Tradition presents a focused look at a group of artists of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent whose work engages the diverse forms of Islamic visual tradition to explore religion, culture, and socio-political issues today. It takes its title from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar’s essay, The Breath of Miraj, a response to artist Shahzia Sikander work, Portrait of the Artist. The text speaks to the manner in which Islam and its history can inspire creative life to become a “long, winding journey.” It simultaneously serves as a metaphor for the travel of a visual tradition through time and its ability to nimbly adapt to an ever-changing world. 

Long, Winding Journeys brings artists’ voices to the fore as they mine links between the seemingly distant past and contemporary experience. The works in the exhibition draw from centuries-old forms—such as calligraphy, miniature painting, geometric patterning, textiles, and architecture—that have come to define historical Islamic art. Employing this lineage, the artists explore the intersection of visual traditions and other kinds of inherited histories: the rich meaning and complex constraints of religious and cultural customs; rituals of spiritual practice; political upheaval and violent conflict; and diaspora’s effect on identity and belonging. Art of the past acts as a lens through which to view present-day experience. 

Artists include Anila Agha, Faig Ahmed, Diana Al-Hadid, Khadim Ali, Ammar Al Attar, Nasser Al Salem, Noor Ali Chagani, Ghada Amer, Afruz Amighi, Nazgol Ansarinia, Fereydoun Ave, Shoja Azara, Ala Ebtekar, Monir Farmanfarmaian, Shadi Ghadirian, Babak Golkar, Mona Hatoum, Susan Hefuna, Shirazeh Houshiary, Baseera Khan, Hassan Massoudy, Jordan Nassar, Shirin Neshat, Hadieh Shafie, Shahzia Sikander and Ayad Akhtar, Kurosh ValaNejad and Peter Brinson, and Imran Quereshi. 

Exhibition Images

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Exhibition Brochure

Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and the Islamic Tradition presents a focused look at a group of thirty artists of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent who engage the diverse forms of Islamic visual tradition.

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Checklist

Illustrated checklist of works in the exhibition.

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Press Release

This exhibition featured a group of thirty-one artists of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent whose work engages the diverse forms of Islamic visual tradition.

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Exhibition Support

This exhibition was organized by Associate Curator, Elizabeth Rooklidge, with research assistance from curatorial intern, Caitlin Monachino, and Dolmatch Fellow, Olga Dekalo.
The exhibition was made possible in part by the generous support of Janet Benton, the
Kathwari Family Foundation, Robin Simon, the Howard and Maryam Newman Family Foundation, Betty Himmel, Yvonne Pollack, Marilyn Glass, Vanessa Diebold, Katherine Moore, and Ellen and Bob Grimes. Public programs are made possible by an Action Grant from Humanities New York.