Calligraffiti 1984/2013

September 5 - October 5, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 5:30-8:30 pm
568 West 25th Street
New York, NY

Keith Haring, Untitled (Subway drawing), 1985, Chalk on paper mounted on board, 46 x 60.25 in
Courtesy Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York



“A calligraphic impulse has been behind some of the greatest works of Modern Art.”
--  Jeffrey Deitch
"This show makes connections between pivotal artistic movements across cultures that have informed each other's creative processes. Just as the graffiti movement emerged from the economic and social turmoil of the 1970s in New York, it is now no surprise that some of the most groundbreaking street art is burgeoning all across the Middle East. Calligraphy as an art form is part of a Middle Eastern collective memory and as it continues to evolve, we are now witnessing a kinetic dialogue between these movements that will no doubt leave their mark on history."
--  Leila Heller

eL Seed, Untitled III, 2013, Acrylic on canvas
74.8 x 51.2 in
Courtesy Ouahid Berrehouma / itinerrance GALLERY

Leila Heller is pleased to announce Calligraffiti 1984/2013, on view from September 5 – October 5, 2013. Originally curated in 1984 by Jeffrey Deitch (Director, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) at Leila Heller’s former uptown gallery, Calligraffiti explored a myriad of possible connections shared between the seemingly disparate styles of select mid-century abstract, U.S. graffiti, and calligraphic artists from the Middle East and its diaspora.
By presenting an expanded and updated roster of artists including site-specific installations by emerging and established artists 30 years later, Calligraffiti 1984/2013 re-examines the global impact of street art and calligraphy as converging modes of personal expression, popular culture, and political dissent mutually grounded in arrogating the systems of language. Featuring more than 50 works by artists ranging from Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner; Hans Hartung and Cy Twombly; Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat; and Hossein Zenderoudi and Pouran Jinchi, the exhibition will also include site-specific installations by emerging and established artists. LA2 will be creating an installation in Leila Heller Gallery’s front room visible from 25th street, while Tunisian/French artist eL Seed will be painting a mural in the 11th Avenue windows. Julien Breton will be also be featuring three light Calligraphy performances during the Calligraffiti opening on September 5, 2013. An illustrated catalogue with an introductory text by Jeffrey Deitch will accompany the exhibition.


Ayad Alkadhi, Hear My Words & If Words Could Kill III, 2013, Mixed media on heavy paper, 30 x 37 in each

Brief Background
For centuries, calligraphers and scribes have visually transcribed concepts surrounding Divine Infinity by presenting the written word as art. In modern times, movements ranging from Dada, Surrealism, Tachism, and Abstract Expressionism have all incorporated elements of writing and language into their abstractions. Most recently, contemporary artists such as Hossein Zenderoudi, Parviz Tanavoli, Hadieh Shafie, and Pouran Jinchi, whose work will be on view, have transformed traditional Arabic script in order to create new abstract shapes and gestural marks, augmented by color, poetry, rhyme, or ayah, which bridge distinctions between nationalities, generations, and beliefs.
As a means of political propaganda, vandalism, and name bombing, graffiti exploded in the 1960s within North and South American cities. During the early 1970s, the arrival of aerosol spray paint solidified grafitti’s impact on the urban landscape further with words and “tags” accompanied by elaborate cartoon-inspired images. By the1980s, elimination efforts by local city councils and transit authorities proved futile as graffiti began to take root in London, Berlin, Paris, and beyond. During the early 1980s, the development of a definitive graffiti style by New York artists such as Keith Haring led to its rapid acceptance within the art world via exhibition by galleries and museums. Closely tied to hip hop’s popularity, graffiti continued its global expansion throughout the 1990s, though more as a commercial phenomenon. From December 2010 onwards, graffiti has swept across North Africa and the Middle East as a highly visible means of political protest, attracting a new wave of interest and reclaiming its importance as an unconventional, revolutionary art form.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled 2, 1951 (Printed 1964), Screen prints, 23 x 29 in / 58.42 x 73.66 cm
Series of 6


Press Release
View Works

Press Contact: Cecilia Bonn, Cecilia Bonn Marketing and Communications, /
212 -734-9754

Upcoming Exhibitions

Iké Udé: Style and Sympathies
October 10 – November 9, 2013

Sartorial Anarchy #6, 2013, Pigment on satin paper, 54 x 36.1 in

Leila Heller is pleased to announce Style and Sympathies, an exhibition of photographs by New York-based, Lagos, Nigeria-born artist Iké Udé, on view at Leila Heller Gallery, located at 568 West 25th Street, from October 10th to November 9th.

Style and Sympathies includes a selection of self-portraits from Udé’s critically acclaimed Sartorial Anarchy series and, for the first time, the series will be broadly continued and presented. Udé’s distinctive portraits, which poeticize colors, sumptuous fabrics, and composition, transcend the traditional aesthetic of portraiture by adopting a post-modern twist. The portraits show a highly stylized world of color and improvisational virtuosity, in which the artist employs men’s fashion ensembles that have been culled from various historical times and geographies.

Press release

Shoja Azari: The King of Black
November 14 – December 14, 2013

The King of Black (video still), 2013, HD colour video with sound, Length: 24 min

Leila Heller is pleased to announce the upcoming solo exhibition by video artist Shoja Azari. The King of Black will  be on view from November 14 - December 14, 2013 at Leila Heller Gallery in Chelsea.

The highlight of exhibition will be Azari’s film The King of Black, which recreates a chapter of the Haft Paykar, the romantic epic of the 12th century, by Nizami of Ganja. Haft Paykar or Seven Beauties is an allegorical romance, which takes self-knowledge as the essential path to human enlightenment as its central theme.

LA 2: New Works
Opens December 17, 2013


Upcoming Offsite Exhibition

Shoja Azari & Shahram Karimi: Magic of Light
In collaboration with MANA Contemporary, Jersery City, NJ
September 29 – December, 2013

Shoja Azari and Shahram Karimi, High Noon, 2010, Acrylic on canvas with
video projection, 50 × 89 in

Mana Contemporary, in collaboration with Leila Heller Gallery, will feature the works by artist and filmmaker Shoja Azari, in addition to his collaborations with painter Shahram Karimi, in the exhibition, Magic of Light, opening Septemper 29, 2013. The show will feature three collaborative video-paintings between Azari and Karimi, which includes a new 4-panel piece, in addition to a video work by Azari. The Magic of Light emphasizes the subtle ways in which motion, texture, and light are used in all the works to further convey inherent emotions of loss, fear and nostalgia. Azari's feature film K, based on the life of writer Franz Kafka, will also be on view for the duration of the exhibition. 

Upcoming Art Fairs

Art Istanbul International
September 16 - 18, 2013

Abu Dhabi Art
November 20 - 23, 2013

Art Miami
December 3 - 8, 2013

Leila Heller Gallery
568 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001
(Tel) 212 249 7695


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