Monday, February 13, 2017

Jan/Feb Artscope: Phantom Punch

Culture Shock at Bates
Jan/Feb 2017

Taryn Plumb

An image of an outdoor mural depicts what would no doubt be a culture shock for many westerners: Eight swords, flanked by elegant Arabic writing, pointing at two women — one completely veiled in black, the other uncovered, long hair falling to her shoulders.
The latter? Marked with an “X.” Her properly-dressed, anonymous counterpart, meanwhile? Given full approval with a check mark.
As if in contrast, a group of young girls, all dressed in frocks of various shades of pink, are hard at work adding their own illustrations to the painting — yet as a looming reminder, they are overseen by a shapeless, faceless figure enshrouded in black.
A still from Saudi artist’s Njoud Alanbari’s “Elementary 240,” it is all at once eerie, haunting, ironic, unexpected — even a little playful.
Such is the nature of “Phantom Punch: Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia in Lewiston,” on view at Bates College Museum of Art through March 18. The exhibit features the unexpected and though-provoking work of more than a dozen Saudi artists.
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