March 2, 2019 - REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) - Michael Rakowitz: Dispute Between the Tamarisk and the Date Palm
March 2, 2019

REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)

Michael Rakowitz, Return, 2004-ongoing. Mixed media installation. Installation view, Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West, MCA Chicago, 2017–18. Photo: Nathan Keay. © MCA Chicago.

Michael Rakowitz
Dispute Between the Tamarisk and the Date Palm
March 9–June 2, 2019

REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)
631 West 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Michael Rakowitz’s first exhibition in Los Angeles brings together a selection of projects created over the last 15 years. These works address recurrent themes within his practice: the legacies and precarity of cultural heritage, manifestations and trajectories of power, and the ways disparate things—people, art, music, and agriculture—wend complex paths across histories and geographies. While Rakowitz’s projects are imbued with deep political import, they also reveal the strange and poignant circumstances that grow out of spaces of cultural contact and conflict.

Rakowitz’s projects focus on singular subjects as literal and symbolic embodiments of the history of Iraq, its diaspora, and the broader Middle East. His work engages both the distant past and more contemporary conditions engendered by regional and global conflicts, marked in large part by the US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in 2003. The title of the exhibition—Dispute Between the Tamarisk and the Date Palm—is taken from a Sumerian fable in which the two eponymous trees planted in the courtyard of the king argue their merits and superiority. It reflects the artist’s ongoing exploration of date palms as evocative metaphors for culture and displacement. Rakowitz’s engagement with his subjects, which in this exhibition include Saddam Hussein’s dishware and ancient Assyrian artifacts, as well as dates, is both experimental and precise. He employs a diverse range of media, from video and sculpture to social gatherings and found objects, to explore the effects of colonization, war, and diaspora on everyday objects and lives, as well as the broader tides of history. He illuminates the rich and often painful space where our personal and collective narratives intersect.

Michael Rakowitz received his BFA from Purchase College, SUNY, New York, and his MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, most recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and SITE, Santa Fe. A major survey of his practice is being organized by Whitechapel, London, and Castello di Rivoll, Turin. His work has also been included in group exhibitions throughout the world, including the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates; Front International, Cleveland; 14th Istanbul Biennial; Yokahama Triennial, Japan; and Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany. He recently completed the Fourth Plinth commission in London's Trafalgar Square and was awarded the Herb Alpert Award in the Visual Arts. Rakowitz is Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

Curated by Diana Nawi with Carmen Amengual, curatorial assistant.

This exhibition is funded in part with generous support from members of the REDCAT Circle and REDCAT Council.


The Gallery at REDCAT focuses on experimentation through new commissions that often mark the first major US presentation by the featured artists. Employing temporary structures and dynamic installations, the exhibition formats are flexible and constantly reformulated to allow for a range of spatial and temporary possibilities. Through its annual series of exhibitions, publications, talks and other public programs, the Gallery highlights concepts and critical discourses that connect art with other fields and disciplines.



REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)
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Dispute Between the Tamarisk and the Date Palm
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