Geometries of Difference: New Approaches to Ornament and Abstraction

Geometries of Difference: New Approaches to Ornament and Abstraction

Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz

Jeffrey Gibson, Aurora, 2013. Elk hide over birch panels, graphite, acrylic, and oil paint; 68 x 87 x 2.5 inches. Courtesy the artist and Marc Straus Gallery, New York.
February 9, 2015
Geometries of Difference: New Approaches to Ornament and Abstraction

February 7–April 12, 2015

Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art 
SUNY New Paltz
New Paltz, NY 12561

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, State University of New York at New Paltz, is delighted to present Geometries of Difference: New Approaches to Ornament and Abstraction, an exhibition of seven contemporary artists who revise modernist abstraction and push geometry and pattern to the verge of ornament.

Organized by independent curator Murtaza Vali, Geometries of Difference includes works by Derrick Adams, Kamrooz Aram, Rana Begum, Jeffrey Gibson, Jason Middlebrook, Kanishka Raja, and Seher Shah that both draw on and subvert the formal language of 20th-century modernist abstraction. Reflecting a broader generational curiosity in and nostalgia for modernism’s Utopian aspirations and its theories, forms and structures, these works reference key moments from the history of modern Western art: Cubist collage; Constructivism; Brutalist architecture; and postwar abstract painting and sculpture.

The exhibition includes 65 works of painting, sculpture, printmaking, and mixed media construction. Exhibition highlights include two new seven-foot high paintings by New York-based Kamrooz Aram; a large wall installation by London-based artist Rana Begum, who will be making her American institutional debut; two new series of prints and collages by Delhi-based Seher Shah that investigate pattern and architecture and playing with two- and three-dimensional form, never before exhibited in the United States; a new textile work by New York-based Kanishka Raja woven by hand in Kolkata, India; and a selection of recent works by New York-based Derrick Adams and Hudson Valley-based Jeffrey Gibson and Jason Middlebrook.

Equally inspired by aesthetic traditions where ornament is understood not as decorative excess but a medium of visual seduction, these seven artists use distinct strategies to introduce uncertainty into the fixed contours of abstract geometries. By providing a terrain through which a dialogue between Western modernism and the decorative tradition of the ornament unfolds, the works in this exhibition reveal unexpected intersections between these two discourses, challenging traditional art histories that privilege the contributions of the former over the latter.


About Murtaza Vali
Murtaza Vali is a critic, curator, editor, and Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. He received an MA in Art History and Archaeology from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts (2004). A recipient of a 2011 Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing, he has written for ArtAsiaPacific, Artforum,,, ArtReview, Art IndiaBidounHarper’s Bazaar Art ArabiaModern Painters, Nafas Art Magazine, NuktaArt, and V&A Magazine and has published monographic essays on Siah Armajani, Fahd Burki, Shilpa Gupta, Emily Jacir, Reena Saini Kallat, Laleh Khorramian, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Hrair Sarkissian. His past curatorial projects include PTSD: Shahpour Pouyan (Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Dubai, 2014); extra|ordinary: The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2013 (Art Dubai, 2013); Brute Ornament (Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2012); and Accented (BRIC Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn, 2010). He also edited Manual for Treason, a multilingual publication commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation for Sharjah Biennial 10 (2011) and served on the Selection Jury for the 2010 Sharjah Art Foundation Production Programme grants. He lives and works between Sharjah, UAE; and Brooklyn, USA.

About The Dorsky Museum
Through its collections, exhibitions, and public programs, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, located at SUNY New Paltz, presents a broad range of world art for study and enjoyment, and serves as a center for Hudson Valley arts and culture. With more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space distributed over six galleries, The Dorsky Museum is one of the largest museums within the SUNY system. The Dorsky was officially dedicated on October 20, 2001. Since then it has presented over 100 exhibitions, including commissions, collection-based projects, and in-depth studies of contemporary artists including Robert Morris, Alice Neel, Judy Pfaff, Carolee Schneemann, and Ushio Shinohara.

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Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz
February 9, 2015

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