Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia

Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia

Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia

Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia

Synopsis

This pioneering work traces the emergence of the modern and contemporary art of Muslim South Asia in relation to transnational modernism and in light of the region's intellectual, cultural, and political developments.

Art historian Iftikhar Dadi here explores the art and writings of major artists, men and women, ranging from the late colonial period to the era of independence and beyond. He looks at the stunningly diverse artistic production of key artists associated with Pakistan, including Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Zainul Abedin, Shakir Ali, Zubeida Agha, Sadequain, Rasheed Araeen, and Naiza Khan. Dadi shows how, beginning in the 1920s, these artists addressed the challenges of modernity by translating historical and contemporary intellectual conceptions into their work, reworking traditional approaches to the classical Islamic arts, and engaging the modernist approach towards subjective individuality in artistic expression. In the process, they dramatically reconfigured the visual arts of the region. By the 1930s, these artists had embarked on a sustained engagement with international modernism in a context of dizzying social and political change that included decolonization, the rise of mass media, and developments following the national independence of India and Pakistan in 1947.

Bringing new insights to such concepts as nationalism, modernism, cosmopolitanism, and tradition, Dadi underscores the powerful impact of transnationalism during this period and highlights the artists' growing embrace of modernist and contemporary artistic practice in order to address the challenges of the present era.
This pioneering work traces the emergence of the modern and contemporary art of Muslim South Asia in relation to transnational modernism and in light of the region's intellectual, cultural, and political developments.

Bringing new insights to such concepts as nationalism, modernism, cosmopolitanism, and tradition, Dadi underscores the powerful impact of transnationalism during this period and highlights the artists' growing embrace of modernist and contemporary artistic practice in order to address the challenges of the present era.

Excerpt

This book traces the emergence of modernism by artists associated with “Pakistan” since the early twentieth century, but it is not a broad history of a national art, nor does it seek to offer a complete account of the selected artists considered here. It traces one influential genealogical trajectory—the emergence of artistic subjectivity in relation to a constellation of conceptual frameworks, nationalism, modernism, cosmopolitanism, and “tradition.” Although artists contributed to national life by forming new institutional frameworks for the patronage, exhibition, and reception of modern art—a labor that is an inextricable aspect of their personae—the addressee of their art cannot be simply equated with a Pakistani nationhood marked by aporias and impasses as a consequence of complex historical developments. Pakistani nationalism has provided painting with no “ancient mythopoetic or iconographic anchorsheet,” a critic noted as early as 1965. Rather, artists drew selectively from broader Persianate and Islamicate cultural and religious legacies, yet also situated themselves as modern cosmopolitans addressing the quandaries of the self in modernity. in this book, therefore, the nation-state functions as only one frame of meaning in designating the artists’ complex practices: in a larger sense, this project can also be viewed as a deconstructive study of nationalism that attempts to fashion a new narrative of a transnational South Asian Muslim modernism from within a national art history.

Postcolonial scholarship has demonstrated that translating concepts initially developed for the study of metropolitan cultures for the study of the postcolonial context is a persistent and unavoidable issue. While acknowledging the limitations of using broad descriptive markers, this book offers fresh interpretations of the terms “nationalism,” “cosmopolitanism,” “modernism,” and “tradition” by inflecting, stretching, estranging, and translating their metropolitan meanings to characterize the art and writings of the artists and their critics. Informed by postcolonial theory and globalization studies, this account views modernism as inherently transnational, rather than as national or even international. Indeed, Andreas Huyssen has advanced the term “modernism at large,” by which he refers to “crossnational cultural . . .

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