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The Dance of Words

Posted on February 4, 2013 by

IARP is a sponsor of a new exhibit opening on February 25 in Minneapolis, The Dance of Words, a group exhibit of artworks that reference the use of text and calligraphic traditions found in many languages and cultures. Iraqi-American artist Ayad Alkadhi is among the featured artists. The exhibit is organized by the Katherine E. Nash Gallery and the Arab American Cultural Institute in Minnesota.

Dates of Exhibit: February 25 – March 15, 2013
Exhibit Location and Hours: Quarter Gallery, Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota
405 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN
Gallery hours are 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday

The Regis Center for Art and Quarter Gallery are wheelchair-accessible. The exhibit and related public programs are free and open to the public.

Related Programming:

What: Public Lecture by Iraqi-American artist Ayad Alkadhi
When: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm
Where: Regis Center for Art

Ayad Alkadhi is an established Iraqi-American artist whose works are exhibited extensively in the United States and Internationally. Ayad Alkadhi’s work focuses on cultural and political topics of Iraq and the Middle East. The work is mainly biographical and sometimes incorporates his painted images. His use of Arabic newspaper on mixed-media canvases, as well as his use of calligraphy, connects elements of traditional medium to existence at the crux of East and West polarities. Alkadhi, who received his MFA from New York University’s ITP Tisch School of the Arts, has exhibited in the Middle East, New Zealand, Europe and the US. His most recent exhibitions include: the Queens Museum, the Austrian Cultural forum and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum in New York; the Station Museum in Houston, Texas, the Maraya Art Center in Sharjah in UAE. Born and raised in Baghdad, Alkadhi left Iraq for a better future after the first Gulf war. Alkadhi currently lives and works in New York City.

What: Public Reception: Celebrate the exhibition with the artists
When: Thursday, February 28, 2013 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Where: Regis Center for Art

Includes a performance by the Amwaaj Arabic Music Ensemble.

Artists in the Exhibit

Robert D. Adams, Ayad Alkadhi, Hend Al-Mansour, Beth Barron, Loretta Bebeau, Maria Damon, Fatima Zahra El Filali, Ruthann Godollei, Marcia Haffmans, James Henkel, Brenda Litman, Joonja Lee Mornes, Charlie Nestor, and Mary Simon-Casati.

Select press images from exhibit (do not alter the press images in any way without permission from the Nash Gallery):

Exhibit Description: 

The Regis Center for Art presents The Dance of Words, a group exhibition of artworks that reference the use of text and calligraphic traditions found in many languages and cultures. The exhibition was juried by Ashley Duffalo, Program Manager, Public and Community Programs, Walker Art Center; Karen Kinoshita, Executive Office and Administrative Specialist, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota; and Ozayr Saloojee, Assistant Professor of Architecture, University of Minnesota.

Letters were invented as symbols to interpret spoken languages. Soon they developed their own visual connotations. Among such connotations are the calligraphic traditions that transformed sacred texts into iconic images. In the Islamic world, the Far East and other cultures, calligraphy renders words to direct the viewer’s emotional response to text as well as to depict the literal significance. When a word is written its image and its concept meet. Together they enter into a dialogue to engage the viewer in a relationship between verbal and visual meanings. In this exhibition, artworks celebrate the aesthetics of the written word and examine this interaction between the dual messages. It draws the audience into a deeper appreciation of such intricacies. The text used is the predominant formal element in the work. The artworks offer unique and contemporary interpretations many calligraphic traditions.

The exhibition serves as a forum to connect calligraphic traditions of many cultures that respect and excel in this art and are part of larger Minnesota. The exhibition aims to create a dialogue between different alphabets’ users. Within one alphabet there are myriad languages with a variety of aesthetics. This exhibition not only helps to integrate different alphabets’ users within the fabric of Minnesota, but also allows these unique groups to offer rich traditions to the larger community. Juxtaposing displays of several languages instigates a deeper reflection on what language as a form of expression means. Texts offer different meanings to natives than to those who do not speak the same language. This exhibition strives to expand our appreciation for cultural diversity.


The Dance of Words was organized by the Katherine E. Nash Gallery and the Arab American Cultural Institute in Minnesota and is co-sponsored by the Department of Art and the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota, the Embassy of the State of Qatar, the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, and Mizna.

IARP is hosting travel expenses for participating Iraqi artist Ayad Alkadhi, who has participated in previous IARP exhibits. 

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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