In summer 2018 I relocated to western Massachusetts, where I have been exploring new art communities and developing new projects. I am very happy to share a recent profile of my work published by the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Art Sake blog.
This year I was selected to participate in MASS MoCA’s Assets for Artists Program, a terrific platform for professional cultivation, regional networking and capital investment for new developments in the studio. With help of a matched savings grant I intend to pursue a new direction in my work: establishing a conceptual textile practice centered on handloom weaving with a large upright tapestry loom. Using natural fibers and hand techniques similar to those used by traditional weavers, I am planning to make large-scale woollen textiles based on a body of drawings that I have been developing over the past 10 years.
One of my 2007 song lyric drawings inspired by early American sampler embroidery is currently on view at the Seattle Art Museum. This work is also part of the museum’s permanent collection.
APR 27 – DEC 8, 2019
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM — THIRD FLOOR GALLERIES
Music and sound offer a path for artists exploring personal and cultural histories and real and imagined spaces. The works here range from the documentary and deadpan to the lyrical, contrasting and harmonizing in unexpected ways.
Robert Morris’s influential 1963 object and recording, Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, created a new consideration of artistic process as the artist recorded himself while he made this work. Decades later we are still in the room with the artist, listening to him hammering, sawing, sanding, and taking breaks. The work’s importance is evident in Jonathan Monk’s homage, a vinyl audio record with the misleading title “The Sound of Music.” If you expect songs by the Trapp family, you will be disappointed. Monk’s record plays the sounds made when the record was manufactured.
Isaac Layman’s photograph of a furniture-sized stereo provides a physical connection to the music experience even though the speakers are turned away from us. Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz gives Leonard Cohen’s song lyrics a sensuous presence. Victoria Haven monumentalizes a mixed tape of personal significance. We can also contemplate the primordial personification of a scream, the suggestion of birdsong, and a range of topographies—from the suggestion of backyard aesthetics to more abstract ventures.
The photographs of a Nirvana performance take us back to a historic event, just as Ed Ruscha’s little book of records charts seismic shifts in the music scenes of the 1960s, from Otis Redding and Carla Thomas to Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground.
I am pleased to announce the opening of Nirgun Maala, my first solo exhibition in Pakistan. Presented by Koel Gallery in Karachi, the project includes paintings and drawings on paper as well as some of my large scale textile collages.
The work assembled in this exhibition springs from my engagement with the South Asian devotional imagination. Comprised of four distinct series, it obliquely reflects the contemplative concept of simran: perpetual concentration on the Real. This constellation of works also meditates on an integral metaphysical thread that connects Indic religious traditions: the mystery of an absolute nirgun reality that transcends form while, simultaneously, manifesting itself through form. This tension between the essence, naam, and outward appearance, rup, is often represented in devotional poetry through the symbol of the maala, the string of rosary beads common to Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim devotional practices. The maala is also an apt metaphor for the contemplative character of my work: like the turning of the beads, my cyclical practice periodically loops back on itself, revisiting forms and images that have become objects of concentration.
In a popular poem well known by qawwals and bhajan singers alike, Kabir Das ecstatically proclaims his gratitude that his maala is finally broken. This evocative image was the point of departure for Constellations, a series of paintings in which a single string of prayer beads is depicted in the process of breaking open, shedding its limitative form. Characters, a parallel group of tasbihs drawn in black indigo, playfully imitate calligraphic forms or ink blots, suggesting dynamic states of soul. Travelers, a pair of elaborate, embroidery-like collages composed on the surface of handloom silk, complement the intimate works on paper. Referring to the patched and embellished khirqa robes worn by wandering mystics, the abstracted floral imagery of these works echoes the Sanskritic origin of the word maala, which also signifies a garland of flowers. A fourth project, a series of delicate pencil drawings depicting Looms, meditates on the acts of weaving and unraveling. These images pay homage to Kabir’s loom and the invisible grid that governs the coalescence and dissolution of all forms.
On Monday, October 23 I will be participating in the newest installment of The Makers Series, a popular Charlottesville arts platform in which local "makers" discuss their creative output in light of larger themes. I will be discussing my artistic practice as a space in which I strive to reconcile the divergent cultural perspectives and life experiences that inform my work.
Guest curated by Dr. Linda Komaroff, LACMA; organised by the Islamic Art Revival Series
October 7 - November 12, 2017 | Irving Arts Center
Bringing together an international array of artworks selected by Dr. Linda Komaroff, Senior Curator of Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, this exhibition presents contemporary practices inspired by Islamic art, design, literature, architecture and philosophy. I was very happy to contribute two of my large scale textile collages, including "Garden of Fidelity" (pictured) and a selection from my ongoing Constellations series.
As the "The Language of Objects" enters its final week on view at the UB Anderson Gallery in Buffalo, here's an excerpt from the exhibition catalogue organized by the wonderful curatorial staff. Many thanks to the UB Art Galleries team and contributing essayist Justine Ludwig!
Curated by Rachel Adams
APRIL 22 – JULY 30, 2017 -- Organized by the UNIVERSITY OF BUFFALO ART GALLERIES
The Language of Objects is a three-person exhibition featuring artists Matthew Craven, Brendan Fernandes, and Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz. On view at the UB Anderson Gallery from April 22 through July 30, 2017, this exhibition showcases artists who appropriate cultural objects in their practice. Referencing the Cravens World Collection—a collection of archaeological and ethnographic objects from around the world dating as far back as 4,500 BC on view in the Cravens open storage room—each of the three artists work across geographic borders and in a variety of mediums. The artists create pathways that add to the history of the objects they select. Each artist is working with a collection of objects, and enlist them in the gallery space to construct new narratives. Philosopher Theodor Adorno argued that museums and mausoleums were within the same realm and that objects, once inside a museum, are removed from the flow of culture where new connections can be established. The artists in this exhibition dissuade this theory by continuing to spotlight new narratives through the varied connections with cultural objects and diverse artistic processes.
In May 2016 I left my home in Charlottesville, Virginia to embark on a year of travel and research. With the help of a generous grant from the Kittredge Fund I returned to Varanasi, where I continued exploring local hand weaving practice and the multidimensional landscape of devotional culture in this incomparable sacred center.
Playing on the metaphorical link between text and textiles, my new work responds to the literary tradition of Kabir, an illiterate Varanasi weaver who became one of the great poet-mystics of medieval India. A scathing critic of religious and social hypocrisy, Kabir explained metaphysical experience through ingeniously elliptical metaphors drawn from his everyday life as a weaver. For Kabir, the acts of weaving, spinning thread and dying cloth went hand in hand with perpetual invocation. Cloth itself was one of Kabir’s favorite symbols for the ephemerality of the human state. The work I have been developing quietly and itinerantly for the past year is dedicated to his legacy.
Being on the road has also given me the opportunity to spend time in other places I love -- London, rural Ireland, Lahore. For the next two months I will be stationed in London, where I will continue preparing work for The Language of Objects, an exhibition that will be presented at the University of Buffalo Art Galleries this spring.
Curated by Joey Yates
On view October 15, 2016 - January 8, 2017 / Donor and Member Preview: Friday, October 14
Sisters of the Moon features artists who investigate ideas related to mysticism and mythology, illuminating the creative spaces where female identity, artistic practice and spirituality converge. Rooted in the ancient belief that women more fully embody the generative forces of nature, possessing a greater connectedness to the surrounding environment, this exhibition provides a unique setting for art exploring the poetics of nature and the feminine divine.
Working through diverse media including painting, drawing, collage, video, photography, ceramics and installation, the artists in Sisters of the Moon examine alternative spiritual perspectives that connect to nature and the cosmos, as well as the historical aspects of goddess spirituality, meditation, herbalism, fortune telling, and other associations with ancient wisdom and superstition. The exhibition confronts a wide range of approaches and issues involving these themes, representing both personal and communal beliefs.
Participating artists: Laura Donefer, Evie Falci, Lauren Fensterstock, Chitra Ganesh, Elizabeth Insogna, Klara Kristalova, Kathleen Lolley, Maidens of the Cosmic Body Running, Katarzyna Majak, Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz, Connie Roberts, Kiki Smith, Renée Stout, Anasazi Thomas, Lina Iris Viktor, and Saya Woolfalk
Curated by Bridget Donlon
On view September 18 - December 11, 2016 / Opening reception: Sunday, September 18
For many artists, there has been a surge of interest in getting back to direct, unmediated experience and an affinity for objects that are individualized, handmade, and authentic. The practices of the artists in this exhibition --- Regina Bogat, Martha Clippinger, John Crawford, Kathy Erteman, Christopher French, Sheila Hicks, Richard Kalina, Ruth Laskey, Douglas Melini, Melissa Meyer, Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz, Odili Donald Odita, Don Porcaro, and Altoon Sultan --- encompass painting, drawing, weaving, and sculpture including blacksmithing, marble carving, and ceramic pottery in the service of finding meaning through analog creation in a digital world. They focus on and derive pleasure from the craft of making work by hand.
Mingei, a Japanese folk craft movement founded by philosopher Sōetsu Yanagi, promoted a set of principles and approaches that the artists of the present exhibition explicitly or implicitly embody. Among those are a deep and evident pleasure in a hands-on relationship to materials and craftsmanship, a reductive approach to formal composition, and a lack of irony. Mingei (and the artists of Confluence/Influence) espouse a return to the tangible in the face of a world that seems to exist ever more in the ethereal, cyber realm.
Hamra Abbas, Rana Begum, Simryn Gill, Ali Kazim, Nadia Khawaja, Michael Muller, Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz, Yamini Nayar, Seher Shah, Lionel Wendt, Claudia Wieser
What an extraordinary way to begin 2016! This month I was blessed to be able to fulfil one of my dreams as a traveler: to make a pilgrimage to the ancient, holy city of Varanasi in India. This trip was made possible through the generosity of the Lighton International Artist Exchange Program and the hospitality of Varanasi's Kriti Gallery, which hosts artists from all over the world. For three weeks, my research focused on devotional communities and the pluralistic nature of religious expression in this sacred center. I also had the great privilege of visiting a number of handloom weaving workshops that specialise in preserving the traditional Banarasi sari. Woven by Muslims of Central Asian lineage, the Banarasi brocade is truly the queen of saris and a textile rich in sacred symbolism, cultural significance and design ingenuity. One of the highlights of my visit was making contact with the workshops of master weavers who take tremendous pride in preserving and transmitting heritage design sensibility and handloom weaving practice. Some of their current sari designs can be traced back through at least 6 generations of family workshop activity; many others echo classic Banarasi sari types that one can see in the historical textile collection of Varanasi's Barat Khala Bhavan. Sadly, globalisation and machine weaving have rapidly endangered the livelihood of handloom weavers throughout India. The Banarasi weavers are a moving example of how hardworking artisans are finding ways to navigate these challenges through the intelligence and resilience of traditional practice.
This autumn and winter I have the privilege of being the inaugural artist-in-residence at the New City Arts Initiative's brand new studio space in downtown Charlottesville. The studio residency opened in connection with NCA's new permanent gallery space. The studio will be open during gallery hours and special events. If you're in the neighborhood, stop in and say hello!
This summer it has been my great privilege to participate in artist residencies at Cill Rialaig in rural County Kerry, Ireland, and the Millay Colony in upstate New York. I look forward to sharing pictures of my new projects soon!
I am very excited to be one of eight artists selected to receive a LIAEP grant for international travel in 2015-2016! I will be using the grant to conduct research in the ancient holy city of Varanasi in India.
The awardees were selected from applicants representing a wide range of artistic mediums. Applications were made from foreign countries and from across the United States. The 2015 LIAEP Award recipients represent ceramics, painting, performance, digital media and textiles and will use the grant support to take advantage of a stimulating range of work and study opportunities. Jurors for the 2015 cycle include founder Linda Lighton; Rose Dergan, Gagosian Gallery, NY; Danny Orrendorf, Threewalls Gallery, Chicago; Christopher Leitch, artist, Kansas City, MO.
On view September 28 - December 14, 2014 / Opening reception: Saturday, September 27
Since 1965, the Weatherspoon Art Museum's Art on Paper exhibition has charted a history of contemporary art through outstanding works on paper. For Art on Paper 2014, curator of exhibitions Xandra Eden invited fewer artists than in the past to provide audiences the opportunity to have a more in-depth understanding of each artist’s work. The exhibition includes thirty-four emerging and established artists who have created unique works using paper as their primary medium. Through the ongoing commitment of xpedx (formerly the Dillard Paper Company) and The Dillard Fund, the Weatherspoon has been able to acquire works from each Art on Paper exhibition for the Dillard Collection, which today numbers nearly 600 works. Acquisitions have included work by some of art’s seminal practitioners, such as Eva Hesse, Frank Stella, and Louise Bourgeois.
Miguel A. Aragon (Brooklyn, NY), Joell Baxter (Brooklyn, NY), Nancy Blum (Hoboken, NJ), Sandra Cinto (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Susan Collis (London, UK), Lucy Fradkin (Staten Island, NY), Ewan Gibbs (Oxfordshire, UK), Laura Tanner Graham (Covington, LA), Margaret Griffith (Los Angeles, CA), Antonia Gurkovska (Chicago, IL & Sofia, Bulgaria), Travis Head (Blacksburg, VA), Harriet Hoover (Greensboro, NC), Candy Jernigan (1952-1991), Glenn Kaino (Los Angeles, CA), JC Lenochan (New York, NY), John Maggio (Greensboro, NC), Pratap Morey (Mumbai, India), Thomas Nozkowski (New York, NY), William J. O'Brien (Chicago, IL), Gelah Penn (Brooklyn, NY), Lamar Peterson (Minneapolis, MN), Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz (Charlottesville, VA), Kim Piotrowski (Riverside, IL), Lily Prince (New York, NY), Jon Rappleye (Jersey City, NJ), elin o'Hara slavick (Chapel Hill, NC), Leah Sobsey (Chapel Hill, NC), Damian Stamer (Brooklyn, NY and Hillsborough, NC), Christopher Thomas (Climax, NC), Kako Ueda (Brooklyn, NY), Robert Wiens (Picton, Canada), Ashley Yeo Yakka (Singapore), Myung Gyun You (Busan, Korea & Philadelphia, PA), Balint Zsako (New York, NY).
On view September 12 - October 11, 2014 / Opening reception: Friday, September 12
Tracy Williams, Ltd. is pleased to announce Ghosts of the Great Highway, Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz’s third exhibition with the gallery. Taking archaeology and the interior life of artifacts as points of departure, the works assembled in the exhibition reflect the artist’s peripatetic movements between cultural landscapes and modes of representation. Since 2009 her practice has become increasingly seasonal and nomadic, responding to the circumstances of her frequent travels through South Asia, Europe and the American west. Juxtaposing monumental works with intimate, manuscript-sized paintings on paper, the exhibition presents a first look at new possibilities emerging within Pheobus Mumtaz’s oeuvre.
Moving fluidly between abstraction and allegory, Pheobus Mumtaz’s graphic language is steeped in mythological and cosmological analogies. Her recent work meditates on the metaphysical symbolism of travel and the fact that every passage--spatial, temporal or ontological--is a confrontation with the ever-present reality of death.
Many of the artist’s recent works take inspiration from burial sites discovered along the historic Silk Road that once stretched from China to the Mediterranean. Travelers, a new series of drawings composed on surfaces of watermarked handmade paper and handwoven tussar silk, suggest fragmentary textile relics and abstracted human traces. A frieze-like companion work, Longboat, presents an enormous pictographic vessel evocative of ship burials uncovered in ancient Britain and Scandinavia.
On a more intimate scale, Pheobus Mumtaz employs materials and techniques culled from the traditions of sacred book arts. Constellations, a suite of 11 paintings selected from a larger ongoing series, depicts prayer beads using 24-karat illuminator’s gold on burnished handmade indigo paper. Like luminous artifacts, the beads are arranged in graceful shapes that recall guiding stars, calligraphic letterforms and cyclical paths through space.
Born in Maryland in 1982, Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz attended Yale University (2004) and completed her MFA at Columbia’s School of the Arts (2008). Her work has been exhibited worldwide, including recent solo exhibitions at Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai, India (2014); Tracy Williams, Ltd., New York, NY (2012, 2009); La Caja Blanca, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (2012); and Bellwether, New York, NY (2009). Many of the works in the exhibition were made possible through the support of the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. A selection from her new project, Constellations, will be included in the upcoming Art on Paper 2014: The 43rd Exhibition at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. She currently lives and works between Charlottesville, Virginia and Lahore, Pakistan.