Iraqi Art Now: Looking In/Out | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Iraqi Art Now: Looking In/Out

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With the U.S. on the brink of war with Iraq, this fine exhibit of 42 works by 30 artists living in and outside that nation serves as a vital reminder of Iraqi humanity and suffering. Islam proscribes figuration, but Iraq's secular culture has made its art relatively diverse. Sadik Alfraji's Loneliness is a grid of glyphlike shapes that suggests an ancient clay tablet; a large abstract head both disrupts the grid and seems trapped by it-- as if a loner were struggling against history. The colors in this show are mostly muted, and some pieces are tellingly grim. Hamid al-Attar's Terror is hung like a painting, but it's more like a coffin, with a sculpted corpse only partly revealed through a narrow vertical opening. The enlarged fingerprint seen through a magnifying glass in Talal Refit's Identity is an affirmation of individuality--and perhaps a disturbing metaphor for a person being interrogated. My favorite work is Nedim Muhsin's ceramic sculpture Ruins, an installation of 32 miniature buildings arranged as disconnected fragments, with gaping holes in the walls and outdoor stairways that lead nowhere. Yet the gentle, charming curves of the pieces moderate the bleakness. DePaul University Art Gallery, 2350 N. Kenmore, through March 16. Hours are 11 to 5 Monday through Thursday, 11 to 7 Friday, and noon to 5 Saturday and Sunday; 773-325-7506.

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