Sunday, March 30, 2014

Despite Conflict and Repression, Creativity -- Afghan Visual Scene Is Focus of Exhibition in Ewing --- In assembling “Art Amongst War: Visual Culture in Afghanistan, 1979-2014,” the current exhibition at the College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Deborah Hutton discovered works that evoked feelings ranging from dismay to guarded hope. -- But Dr. Hutton, the curator of the show and an associate professor of art history at the college, also expects visitors to react with surprise. Not just at what is portrayed in the pieces, but that the art, which will be on display through April 17, even exists. -- “Most of the images we see of Afghanistan are the ones that are in the news, of the Taliban or of women in burqas. There’s this idea that there’s no culture left at all, which isn’t true,” said Dr. Hutton, 43, of Trenton. -- Dr. Hutton specializes in Islamic art, including the art of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, having done most of her research in India. She has not been to Afghanistan, which “has not been a great place to travel” since she began her career in the late 1990s, she said. -- “It’s been 35 years since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the country has been at war or occupied since then,” Dr. Hutton said. That may have curtailed artistic expression in a culture once vivid with art, she said. But the drive to create meaning amid chaos has never been fully quashed, and in recent years, she said, the Afghan art scene has re-emerged. -- For example, the six photographers in the exhibition, which encompasses 51 works by 17 artists in a spectrum of disciplines, are members of the Afghan Photography Network, founded in 2013. (The college printed the photographs using digital files sent by the photographers.) Rahraw Omarzad, who contributed a video to the show that considers the repression and resilience of Afghan women during the Taliban regime, is the director of the Center for Contemporary Art Afghanistan in Kabul, established in 2004. -- The anonymous weavers of six 1980s and 1990s-era “war rugs” — carpets whose motifs include land mines, guns and soldiers — may have had no formal training, learning from their relatives, but they have incorporated the grim realities of life in a war zone into their traditional craft. - More, TAMMY LA GORCE, NYTimes, at:


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