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AMIR NOUR AND MOHAMMAD OMER KHALIL Robert Condon The National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC November 16-February 26, 1995 ABS is the stuff of IS. By its nature, it is not an insular language. The resilience of its signage runs like a thread through many different milieus, collapsing insurmountable distances and pointing in many different directions. The shortcoming of most late Modernist discourses is to place this reading of abstraction within a framework that pinpoints its conception at the dawn of this century in the hands of a select few. RELYING ON EXCLUSIONARY TACTICS TO FORMULATE THE BASIS OF ITS PRECEPTS IN ART, WESTERN MODERNISM PROBLEMATTZES A B S N BY IGNORING ITS EQUIVALENCES WITHIN OTHER STRUCTURES WHICH STRIVE TO BROADEN WHAT IS TODAY AN EXPANDING HORIZON. Abstraction is comprised of a But within Modernism, it becomes inscribed in a predetermined lineage of ideas that represent an equivocal endpoint for the history of all artistic production in the West. Within the charged atmosphere which such a trope engenders, it seems inevitable that the of those artists who do not operate exclusively from a constructed and localized world view, can become caught up in it nonetheless. AS MUCH AS ARTISTS EXPRESS THEMSELVES IN THEIR WORK, THEY ALSO RESPOND TO THE WORLD THAT ENCOMPASSES THE PRESENTATION AND FORMULATION OF THEIR WORK. How else could the Journal of Contemporary African Art • Spring/Summer 1995 Left: Amir I. M. Nour, Grazing at Shendi, 1969 (Steel, 202 pieces: 304 x 41 i cm). Collection of the artist. Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art. PHOTO Franko Khoury. Above: Mohammad O m e r Khalil.Tombstone Blues, 1986 (Etching on paper: 116.8 x 160.1 cm). Collection National Museum of African Art. Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art. PHOTO Franko Khoury. Below: Amir I. M. Nour, Spoon, 1975 (Bronze:36.8 x 135.9 x 54.6 cm). Collection of the artist. Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art. PHOTO Franko Khoury, Journal of Contemporary works of American Abstract Expressionists have been touted as the t r i u m p h of American painting a n d at the same time the zenith of individualism without compromising the nationalism of the former with the inherent ahistorical nature of the latter? The question that arises, when one follows this reading of abstraction outside the domain of Western modernism and into the arenas of other modernisms, is: H o w do we view the work of artists w h o operate outside the sphere of Western representation? Because too often we rely on invoking metaphors that always bring it back to that which never spawned it. This question remained central when I viewed the works of M o h a m m a d O m e r Khalil and Amir N o u r at their recent exhibition at the National M u s e u m of African Art at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.The work of these two Sudanese artists, by the sheer force of their productions, challenges all received notions of what abstraction connotes. Here, the debate becomes recentered around the shifting metaphors of abstraction a n d its ability to tell m o r e than one tale at the same time. The question of h o w is answered at once by this way and that way. At first encounter, the works of Khalil and N o u r could fit easily into the canon of M o d e r n abstraction which emphasizes the formal aspects of a work as the locus of its meaning. Nour's sculptures, m a d e in the late 60s and early 70s at the height of minimalism, were part of the evolving discourse of that movement. His works resonate with the painterliness of Donald Judd's minimalist constructions as m u c h as the interchangeable, superstructured assemblages of Tony Smith's late works. Khalil is a master printmaker whose etchings infuse a fresh perspective into what Robert Rauschenberg was articulating with the photographic image, recasting it in the service of painting. Like Antoni Tapies, he explores the boundaries of the etching m e...


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