Grosvenor Gallery: Rasheed Araeen 'Sixty-Three Years of the Figural'

29 June – 15 July

Grosvenor Gallery presents a solo show by Rasheed Araeen. The exhibition is titled 'Sixty-Three Years of the Figural' and will feature a curated and focused view of the figure in his practice, from early drawings to political works and performances. Works in the exhibition will largely date from the 1970s and 1980s. Simultaneously historical work by Araeen as well as his minimalist Constructions will be exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery on Bury Street.

About the artist’s political work:

“Araeen found himself increasingly sidelined by the artworld establishment. Rejection coupled with experiences of racial prejudice led to his politicisation during the 1970s. Works from this period addressing racism and colonialism include the biting four-panel collage For Oluwale (1971–1973), dedicated to a Nigerian immigrant who was found drowned following systematic police harassment. [In another work] photographs show officers protecting the National Front in When they meet (1973), while the slideshow ‘Paki Bastard’ (Portrait of the Artist as a Black Person) (1977/2016) documents Araeen’s stirring 1977 performance where he was gagged, ostensibly attacked and left for dead. But without the artist’s presence, the power of the original is barely approached. Araeen’s convictions regarding cultural imperialism led him in 1978 to found Black Phoenix as an outlet for his critical writings. Relaunched in 1987 as Third Text, the journal was soon leading the debate on postcolonialism and art. Indeed, the scope of his activities is intriguing, pivoting on a conspicuous vacillation between aesthetic sensibilities and political consciousness. Occasionally the two meld elegantly, as in the lesser-known Cruciform series made between 1985 and 1996. These slick, nine-panel grids – incorporating photographs, Arabic texts and green monochromes – interrogate the economic, military and cultural hegemony of the West and its relationship with the Middle East”. Anything goes in Post Modernity (1996).

David Trigg, Art Review, review of Araeen’s Touring Retrospective in 2018

Rasheed Araeen is an artist, writer and the Founding Editor of Third Text. As an artist, he began his journey in Pakistan in 1953, whilst also studying civil engineering. After doing some important works in Karachi, seminal to his subsequent pursuits, he came to the UK in 1964 and has since lived in London. In the 1960s and 1970s, he became active in various groups supporting liberation struggles, democracy and human rights, which led him to writing ‘Black Manifesto’ (1975-76); and then to numerous publications: Black Phoenix (1978-79), Third Text (1987-2011), and Third Text Asia (2008- 09). His present concern is with the Muslim world, for the promotion of its past achievements and what it can now do to be part of the modern world according to its own world view, values and vision. Perhaps best known for his Geometric structures, first produced in the early 1960s, in which vertical and horizontal lines are held together by a network of diagonals (like the bracing struts used to strengthen latticed engineering constructions). These sculptures play on the links between Eastern and Western thought and the frameworks of social institutions and aesthetics. His most famous iteration of this concept is his interactive work Zero to Infinity (1964 – ongoing), which through audience participation, creates an infinite and ever-changing sculpture.

Rasheed Araeen, Paki Bastard, 1977, still image.
Rasheed Araeen, Paki Bastard, 1977, still image. Courtesy of the artist and Grosvenor Gallery.