No. 332: Fazal Sheikh, John Akomfrah

Episode No. 332 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features artists Fazal Sheikh and John Akomfrah.

The Portland (Ore.) Art Museum is exhibiting “Common Ground: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh, 1989-2013,” a 25-year survey of Fazal Sheikh’s work. The exhibition focuses on Sheikh’s portraiture, work that spotlights the individual humanity often forgotten or obscured by war and other ethnic, religious or misogynistic violence. It also includes Sheikh’s landscapes, which often suggest the violence or migration that the land in his pictures sustained. The exhibition, which is on view through May 20, was organized by Eric Paddock and the Denver Art Museum. Julia Dolan oversaw the Portland installation.

Sheikh, who was born in New York to an American mother and Kenyan father, spent many childhood summers there. Upon earning a Fulbright scholarship after studying under Emmet Gowin at Princeton, Sheikh returned to Africa and found himself photographing people displaced from Somalia, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Rwanada who were living in refugee camps. Over the ensuing decades he continued to look at places where massive waves of migration, often caused by violence, impacted people and places. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ award. Museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Mapfre Foundation in Madrid, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art have presented solo exhibitions of his work.

Sheikh’s website includes a broad presentation of his work and free digital versions of all of his books. Among the series or projects he and host Tyler Green discuss on this week’s program are:

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is presenting the U.S. debut of John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea in “Sublime Seas: John Akomfrah and J.M.W. Turner.” The exhibition, which pairs a film installation Akomfrah made for the Venice Biennale in 2015 with Turner’s The Deluge, will be on view at SFMOMA through September 16. It was curated by Rudolf Frieling.

In two weeks the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University will exhibit Akomfrah’s Precarity, which debuted at Prospect.4. (The version of Precarity at the Nasher will differ slightly from the version shown in New Orleans.) The exhibition will remain on view through August 26. Later this spring, Akomfrah will return to The MAN Podcast to discuss Precarity.

Akomfrah has had many solo exhibitions and dedicated screenings around the world, including at the Tate Britain and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Air date: March 15, 2018.

Fazal Sheikh, Rohullah, Afghan Refugee Village, Badabare, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan, from the series “The Victor Weeps,” 1997.

J.M.W. Turner, The Deluge, ca. 1805.

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea (installation view), 2015.

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea (installation view), 2015.

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea (still), 2015.

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