Sundaram Tagore Gallery to showcase work of Anila Quayyum Agha

A Beautiful Despair, 2022, lacquered steel and halogen bulb, 60 x 60 x 60 inches/152.4 x 152.4 x 152.4 cm. Photo: Sundaram Tagore Gallery, NYC

The Sundaram Tagore Gallery in New York City announced August 18, 2022, it is presenting new paintings, drawings and light installations by Anila Quayyum Agha from Sept. 8 to October 8. An artist known for her immersive, illuminated, suspended cubes, this is Agha’s first solo exhibition at Sundaram Tagore which specializes in representing established and emerging artists from around the world since 2000.

Agha is a Pakistani-American artist who works in a cross-disciplinary fashion with mixed media. Her work explores global politics, cultural multiplicity, mass media, and social and gender roles in the current cultural and global scenario, the press release said.

She is internationally recognized for her large-scale light installations that use light and pattern to create immersive shared experiences and healing spaces.

Agha’s work has been the subject of eight museum shows since 2019. For this exhibition, she reimagines ornamental patterns from history in metal, resin and paper using traditional and contemporary techniques of craft. The work ranges from large  laser-cut steel sculptures to intimate hand-embroidered drawings.

The show’s centerpiece is an immersive large-scale light installation commissioned by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Texas in 2021. A Beautiful Despair (is part of Agha’s award-winning cube series, which has garnered critical recognition and drawn crowds in museums and public spaces around the world since 2014.

The exhibition marks the debut of a series of resin paintings in which the artist radically expands her use of color and explores pattern in new ways. Agha departs from her characteristic streamlined palettes in favor of vivid hues inspired by the high-contrast color combinations popular in South Asian and African textiles.
Agha’s labor-intensive process involves building up the surface in stages, with layers of colored resin applied over a substrate. Her complex compositions are turned into a digital template and incised into the resin-coated panels in a manner similar to engraving. The process can take from twelve to sixteen hours per design.

Although produced with the aid of technology and wholly contemporary in their aesthetic, each work is imbued with history. In addition to the formal elements inspired by traditional Islamic art, the unique application of colors references the centuries-old craft of pietra dura, the decorative inlay technique that flourished in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries, and came to India, notably in the court of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who commissioned one of the world’s most exquisite examples of the craft, the Taj Mahal.

Anila Quayyum Agha. Photo Facebook November 2020.

“In a world where difference and divergence dominate most conversations about the intersection of cultures, my artwork explores the harmonies without ignoring the shadows, ambiguities and dark spaces between them,” Agha is quoted saying in the press release.
After came to the U.S. in 2000, attending graduate school to study fiber arts. Over time, she expanded her practice to include other mediums as her work became increasingly sculptural.
Her work has been exhibited widely, including at Asia Society, New York; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; National Sculpture Museum, Valladolid, Spain; Chimei Museum of Art, Tainan City, Taiwan; Dallas Contemporary Art Museum, Texas, etc.

Major awards include the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship; ArtPrize (Juried and Public Vote Grand Prize 2014); Creative Renewal Fellowship and DeHaan Artist of Distinction (Indy Arts Council); Research Scholar Award (Indiana University); Schiele Prize (Cincinnati Art Museum); the 2019 Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation; and the 2021 SARF (Smithsonian Artist Fellowship).
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, 1965, Agha lives and works in Augusta, Georgia, and Indianapolis, Indiana.



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