11/05/2018 Phillips Museum of Art

Geometric Aljamía: a Cultural Transliteration

Geometric Aljamía: a Cultural Transliteration

January 24-March 8, 2019

Rothman Gallery


Geometric Aljamía: a Cultural Transliteration explores geometry as a fundamental aspect of two-dimensional art and as a way to communicate ideas across cultures. Since ancient times, geometric perfection has been thought to convey sacred and universal truths by reflecting the fractal interconnections of the natural world. One finds these similarities across cultures embedded in many diverse ethnic patterns. Geometry, in this way, is much like aljamía, or the adaption of Arabic script to write in European languages. By understanding the visual arts as a transliteration of one form of thinking to another, this exhibition revisits the ongoing impact of Islamic art, science, and philosophy throughout the world today.

Geometric Aljamía includes work by Mohammad Saleh Amin, Jorge Benitez, Reni Gower, Hanane Korchi, Tamim Sahebzada, and Julia Townsend. The paper cut installations of Amin, Gower, and Korchi use sacred geometry to blend subtle imperfection with structured repetition. Townsend is inspired by Koran Illumination Tehzip patterns in the Ottoman style for her wall tracings and paper cut while Sahebzada draws upon the Behzad School of Illumination for his calligraphic wall tracing. Benitez uses linear perspective as a metaphor for Western Civilization. Their shared artistic and intellectual interests speak to the larger hybrid relationship that the West shares with the Middle East, and especially with the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization.

This exhibition evolved out of a workshop conducted by Gower and Benitez during the 2013 Tasmeem Conference, which was organized by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCUQ) School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar. Funding for Geometric Aljamía: a Cultural Transliteration was made possible in part by Virginia Commonwealth University, VCUarts, and VCUarts Department of Painting and Printmaking.


Gallery Talk by Jorge Benitez and Reni Gower, Geometric Aljamía: a Cultural Transliteration: Examined through Sacred Geometry, February 21, 5 p.m. in the Rothman Gallery

  • Image Credit: Jorge Benitez, "Courtyard," 2013, Graphite on Arches paper, 11” x 15”, Courtesy of the Artist Image Credit: Jorge Benitez, Courtyard, 2013, Graphite on Arches paper, 11” x 15”, Courtesy of the Artist
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