Raising awareness of difficult and agonizing aspects of existence has a powerful place among the purposes of art. Qureshi’s roof garden installation certainly does that. The installation refers to the bombing of a Sufi shrine in Lahore, Pakistan in 2010 that took many lives and wounded many more. The paved floors of the beautiful, garden-like shrine were left bloody as you can see in photos at this link, (note paving in the last of the series). Go to the roof of the Metropolitan Museum and you will see similar paved surface painted a bloody red, with splotches and drops intermingled among the forms of blooming flowers, memorializing the incident and heightening awareness.
I admit to being disappointed. The roof garden installations, up to this year, have often been challenging intellectually and artistically, but they've always been gorgeous, and one leaves feeling elated. Three gardens come together at this distancing height: the city itself with its great surrounding skyscape, the garden of the park, and the garden of art. The roof has been an oasis of joy -- as in last year's Cloud City of Tomas Saraceno.
The roof garden has also provided an ideal locale for art in three-dimensions: expansive sculpture and architectural gardens. This year, with all that space and sky above, it’s a let-down to emerge onto the roof and, directed by the art, to look down, at painting flat on the paving stones. The museum is currently undergoing large scale renovations and is surrounded with scaffolds and temporary walls, so the flat surface may have been chosen for its easier installation logistics -- nothing huge had to be hauled up there with cranes and pulleys like last year!
Qureshi, born in 1972 in Hyderabad, Pakistan, used to create small works on paper that resembled miniaturist books made for the Mughal court in the 16th to 19th centuries: he inserted into this physically small, precise form contemporary images. Then he exploded, as an artist, from the small page to large scale site-specific works, enlarging his landscapes and the scope of his contemporary ideas, and using acrylic paint. It's interesting to see, though, that even in this vast, terrace-sized work, he maintains his dainty touch of the brush in his painted flower petals, some delicately tipped with white as you can see in the close-up photo, second from the top.
One looks down instead of up, and not to an oasis of joy, that's for sure. Still, Qureshi’s painted pavings, rooted, it would seem, in grief and the desire to bear witness, have a strength of their own.
In connection with the exhibition, the book, The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi, is available.The exhibition and its publication were conceived by Sheena Wagstaff, and organized by Ian Alteveer.
The Roof Garden is open every day (weather permitting) that the Museum is open, and admission to it comes with admission (recommended) to the museum. It's very pleasant -- oasis-like -- that sandwiches, espresso, and other snacks and drinks are available on the roof daily from 10 a.m. until closing (weather permitting) and a cocktail bar is open on the Roof Garden on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30-8PM. Click on live link, for more information.
Comments very welcome. Scroll down below the picture, click on "comments," write in comment box and click on "post," Emails are private -- no emails ever appear with comments. Photos 1, 2 and 4 -- Installation views of The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi (2013). Photo 3 -- Imran Qureshi creating his site-specific work for The Roof Garden Commission project on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Photos are Metropolitan Museum of Art/Hyla Skopitz