In the San Francisco Chronicle Meredith May reports that Karim Alwali, one of the most recognized abstract painters in Baghdad, is now painting memories of his homeland in a tiny apartment in San Jose. “Before the war, Alwali’s work was on permanent display at the most prestigious museum in Iraq, Gallery Hawar. Now all he has left are a few paintings he was able to smuggle out of the country in August. He joined a network of 25 Iraqi refugee families in the Bay Area, where he must start over in a new culture and find a way to get noticed in a community already congested with artists….A caseworker is bringing him to art parties to help him network. Now he’s trying to bring a renaissance to Iraqi art, using his status as a ‘recent witness to history’ to tell the story of his beleaguered country. He made a wooden, fold-out panel representing Al-Mutanabi Street, with burn holes, blood smears, ancient calligraphy and Koran verses. ‘When I entered the U.S. I tried not to get surprised, but I failed in front of the beauty of San Francisco,’ he said. And by beauty, he means abstract painters Jasper Johns and Mark Rothko. Alwali took a train to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on his third day in the United States, and stayed for eight hours, staring at their work.” Read more.
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