NYU Abu Dhabi Gallery
The only constant at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery
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Until June 4, 2023, the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery is holding a group exhibition “the only constant” featuring Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Patty Chang, Gil Heitor Cortesão, Sharon Lockhart, Taus Makhacheva, Haroon Mirza, Clifford Ross, Thomas Struth, and Vivek Vilasini.

The show was inspired by Al Sawaber by Tarek Al-Ghoussein. It is a series of photographs of Al Sawaber, an enormous high-density apartment complex in Kuwait, which were taken before its demolition. Abandoned and deteriorated, Al Sawaber in the exhibited pictures once was a vision of utopia which has become archaic later. The photographs also show the interior of the complex: worn wallpapers depicting natural and garden landscapes tell about another imagined paradise beckoning the world of nature. “Even as we might long for an untouched paradise, [we] build futuristic utopias”, the exhibition’s curator Maya Allison says. Through this photo series by Al-Ghoussein “runs a theme: utopia and paradise arrive and then depart (change is the only constant)”.

Tarek Al Ghoussein, Al Sawaber 3268, 2015-2017. Digital print, 30 x 40 cm. Courtesy of Tarek Al Ghoussein / The Third Line.

In their artworks, the participating artists explore the contrast between natural landscapes and the human imprint. For instance, Taus Makhacheva displays her installation “Ring Road”, a model of a mountain in her hometown in Dagestan with a road cut in it. One can get the artwork for free, but they would have to enter into a contract to build the mentioned road in real life. Making such an absurd offer, Makhacheva highlights how we view land as a commodity.

Thomas Struth is represented in the show by one of the photographs from his “New Pictures from Paradise” series; the artwork depicts an Australian forest. Interestingly enough, the series’ title may imply that such an unchanging perfect place as Paradise has changed.

Thomas Struth, Paradise 03, Daintree, Australia 1998, 1998. Chromogenic print, 185.4 x 266.0 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.

Among the exhibited art pieces there is also City Fifth Investigation by Vivek Vilasini. It is a series of 31 works of rice paper illustrating the pollution buildup in Delhi over a month: the paper sheets were laid on a rooftop and removed one sheet a day. The first sheets got just slightly dark, but the following ones gradually became darker, more textured and layered as the days passed.

About the artists

Tarek Al-Ghoussein (born in 1962, Kuwait; died in 2022, New York, US) was a documentary photographer, photojournalist, a multidisciplinary artist, and NYU Abu Dhabi Professor of Visual Arts. Through landscape photography, self-portraiture, and performance he explored such subjects as land, belonging, nostalgia, and barriers.

Patty Chang (born in 1972, San Leandro, USA) is an artist and educator residing in Los Angeles. Using performance, video, and installation, she delves into the themes of identity, gender, language, empathy, transnationalism, colonialism, and the environment.

Vivek Vilasini, City Fifth Investigation (detail), 2017. Rice paper and atmospheric pollutants, 31 unites, 43.2 x 43.2 cm each. Photo: Khushnum Bhandari.

Gil Heitor Cortesão (born in 1967, Lisbon, Portugal) is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Lisbon. He creates his atmospheric artworks by using his signature technique — reverse painting on plexiglass.

Sharon Lockhart (born in 1964, Norwood, Massachusetts, US) is an American artist who resides in Los Angeles. She works with communities to make motion films, photographs, and installations in which she considers different social subjects.

Taus Makhacheva (born in 1983, Moscow; lives and works between Dubai, UAE, and Moscow, Russia) is a contemporary artist. Her videos and performance works critically examine what happens when different cultures and traditions come into contact with one another.

Haroon Mirza (born in 1977, London, UK) is a British visual artist of Pakistani descent who lives in London and creates immersive installations which generate audio compositions. His artistic practice also includes sculptures and performances.

Clifford Ross, Hurricane LXVIII, 2009. Archival pigment print. 73 x 129″, 48 x 82″, 24 x 39″ (frame)

Clifford Ross (born in 1952, New York City, US, where he resides), a contemporary American artist, is famous for his Hurricane Waves series, the large-scale photographs which depict the power of the ocean. Ross works in multiple forms of media: sculpture, painting, photography, and video.

German photographer Thomas Struth (born in 1954, Geldern, Germany) resides in Berlin. He is widely known for his Museum Photographs series, family portraits, and black and white photographs of the streets of Düsseldorf and New York taken in the 1970s.

Vivek Vilasini (born in 1964, Kerala, India), who lives and works between Kochi and Bangalore, learnt sculptural practices from traditional craftsmen of Kerala in the 80’s. His art practice involves various digital and sculptural media. Vilasini is particularly interested in climate change and structures of knowledge, politics, and identity.

To learn more about “the only constant”, please visit the event’s official web page.

You might also be interested in visiting The Lost Planet by Natalia Kapchuk.