‘Culture Cannot Wait’ Program Brings Experts in Preserving Cultural Heritage to Brandeis
WALTHAM, Mass.—The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University recently announced that it will present Immortal City, an exhibition of new paintings by acclaimed Syrian-Armenian artist Kevork Mourad created in response to the war in Syria and the destruction of the artist’s beloved city of Aleppo. The exhibition will take place Sept. 8, 2017-Jan. 21, 2018.
Kevork Mourad, born in Syria in 1970, is known for paintings made spontaneously in collaboration with composers, dancers, and musicians. Of Armenian descent, Mourad performs in his art both a vital act of remembering and a poetic gesture of creativity in the face of tragedy, as he mediates the experience of trauma through finely wrought, abstracted imagery that celebrates his rich cultural heritage even as he mourns its loss.
Mourad’s paintings ask viewers to stop and bear witness, to see the fragments of a culture destroyed—textiles, ancient walls, Arabic calligraphy, and bodies crushed by war. Using a unique method that incorporates monoprinting and his own technique of applying paint with one finger in a sweeping gesture, Mourad produces paintings that are fantastical, theatrical, and lyrical, the line reflecting the music that is such an integral part of his practice.
An 18th century etching from the Rose’s permanent collection by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranisi will accompany Mourad’s work and locate Mourad’s practice within a centuries-old artistic interest and fascination with the city in ruins.
“In times of conflict or crisis, artists can operate as our conscience,” says Kristin Parker, deputy director of the Rose and the organizer of the exhibition. “Over 400,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, and more than 6.5 million people have been displaced. This multicultural country has been fractured and desperately impoverished, resulting in the international plight of refugees today. Mourad’s exhibition expresses our shared humanity, while the accompanying programs aim to help us contend with loss and devastation, to encourage hope and empathy, and to share ways in which the preservation of heritage and the arts can contribute to building human resilience.”
A series of programs will be presented alongside the exhibition, including a multi-day workshop Nov. 7-9 titled Culture Cannot Wait; it will bring a range of experts working to preserve cultural heritage in times of crisis to the Waltham campus, presented in collaboration with the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, Rome, and Brandeis’s Heller School for Public Policy. This invitation-only workshop will offer a public program on Nov. 7.
On Nov. 4, Mourad and clarinetist/composer Kinan Azmeh will perform Home Within, an audio-visual performance that has toured the world in efforts to raise awareness and funds for Syrian refugees. In this work, art and music develop in counterpoint to each other, reflecting on the Syrian conflict and its aftermath.
The Immortal City exhibition grew out of a 2015 MusicUnitesUS residency with Mourad and Azmeh at Brandeis. MusicUnitesUS is a program that strives to foster understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures through music, hosting a residency that explores ways to approach difficult situations through an artistic lens. For more info about the residency, visit http://www.brandeis.edu/now/2015/october/azmeh-muus.html.
The exhibition and accompanying programs are funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A public opening reception to celebrate the museum’s fall exhibition season will be held 6–9 p.m. on Oct. 14.
About The Artist
Kevork Mourad was born in Qamishli, a town in northeastern Syria. Of Armenian heritage, he received his master of fine arts degree from the Yerevan Institute of Fine Arts, in Armenia, and now lives and works in New York.
With his technique of spontaneous painting, where he shares the stage with musicians—a collaboration in which art and music develop in counterpoint to each other—he has worked with many world class musicians, including Kinan Azmeh, Brooklyn Rider, Ken Ueno, Liubo Borissov, Issam Rafea, and Haruka Fuji.
Mourad is a member, as a visual artist, of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. He has performed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Bronx Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, the Chess Festival of Mexico City, The Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art in Yerevan, Le Festival du Monde Arabe in Montreal, the Nara Museum in Japan, the Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Central Park’s Summerstage with the Silk Road Ensemble and Bobby McFerrin.
With the actress and singer Anaïs Tekerian, he has co-produced and directed several multimedia plays, including Lost Spring, which premiered at MuCEM in Marseille, France. Mourad created stop-motion animation work for Manuel De Falla’s Master Peter’s Puppet Show, performed with The Knights at Tanglewood; and the video animation for Lembit Beecher’s chamber opera, I Have No Stories to Tell You, at Opera Philadelphia. Commissioned by The Space, UK, he collaborated with composer/oud player Issam Rafea to create Barbed Wire (2015), a musical-visual project that aims to encapsulate the reality of Syrians forced to leave their country.
In addition to a recent solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Platform in Kuwait, Mourad’s digital work “The Map of Future Movements” toured as part of a group exhibition in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and was featured in the 2010 Liverpool Biennial. He also participated in Art Moment 2014, in Budapest, Hungary.
The 2016 recipient of the Robert Bosch Stiftung Prize, Mourad is currently at work on an animated short film about Syria.