Who much the Islamic idea important is to Abdulnasser Gharem?
LACMA curator of Islamic art Linda Komaroff, who organized "Pause," says that Gharem's 11 works in the show are groundbreaking in their construction and push boundaries politically. "It incorporates motifs and artistic ideas that are part of the canon of Islamic art — geometric and floral designs, arabesques and also embedded text — but it's very contemporary," Komaroff says. "He's inventing new media, like with his stamp paintings, and a lot of his ideas are tied to life in Saudi Arabia today. What interests me is this intersection of past and present. He's totally fearless. "One of his newest pieces, "Hemisphere," is a 400-pound resin sculpture. One side is the sea green dome of the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, Saudi Arabia; the other side is an 18th or 19th century Iranian battle helmet. They represent war and peace, as well as the left and right sides of the brain, and also the opposing sides of faith-based religion, with strength, support and compassion on one side, and prejudice, division and violence on the other. Dichotomies, not surprisingly, factor into the artist's work One of his newest pieces, "Hemisphere,"
"Through the education program we have, through what they are saying in the mosque, they want to make us like warriors. And we are going to fight," Gharem says. "Why do you want to create me as a warrior since I was a kid? Who am I going to fight? And suddenly, what you have seen in the Muslim world, the Arab world, is that Muslims are fighting themselves."
Gharem had hoped to study art at the local university after high school but he wasn't accepted, he says. During the requisite admissions test, prospective students were asked to create a piece of art in front of their exam auditor. Gharem drew a portrait of his interviewer, a religious Muslim, forgetting that the predominant interpretation of Islam taught in his area at that time prohibited depicting the human form.