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"Take it like a ... "; contemporary trends in the aesthetics of violence

Somnath Bhatt | Issam Kourbaj | Firoz Mahmud | Qinza Najm | Sahana Ramakrishnan | Sa’dia Rehman | Mohsin Shafi | Marcelino Stuhmer | Saira Wasim

Curated by Atif Sheikh

Take it like a ...”; contemporary trends in the aesthetics of violence takes a look at violence as methodology and/or aesthetics in contemporary art, and the exploration of its connection to similar aesthetics in ancient art. 


The show, curated by Twelve Gates’ Atif Sheikh, brings together a group of artists whose work responds to and explores the many aspects of violence in contemporary society.  By referencing the aesthetics of the past, each in their own way, the tradition of depicting violence in art becomes evident; as applied to contemporary issues, the aesthetics call into question the tradition itself.  As we as a global society become increasingly aware of the destructive, divisive outcomes and less convinced by the narrative in favor of the necessity of engaging in conflict, the tradition of depicting violence in art reflects this almost traumatized, fragmented reckoning.  The pieces seem to seek to slow down the process of conflict enough to understand it and perhaps choose a different conclusion.


Sheikh says, “Ancient art offers a valuable insight into ancient societies and their aesthetics of violence. This is especially the case in the classical and medieval representation of the ‘Other’ as either monstrous or feminine (e.g. the ancient Greek representation of the masculine hero in juxtaposition to the feminine Barbarian enemy). Whereas war was considered noble in ancient times, it still needed justification through the representation of the enemy in art.  Today, as we live in a time of multiple, simultaneous wars, violence is similarly justified by painting the ‘enemy’ as vile in the media, thereby engendering a sense of righteousness.


By exploring the resonances between the ancient and the contemporary world, the aim of my project is to stir up conversations about issues that are otherwise complacently accepted.”


Somnath Bhatt is an artist and designer from Ahmedabad, India. He completed his education at Rhode Island School of Design in 2017. His work has been shown at ICA London, Institute of New Connotative Action (Seattle, WA), Lewisham Art House (UK), Wrong Biennale (Oslo, Norway), RISD Museum (Providence, RI), ICA Philadelphia, and Art Week Dubai among others. 


Issam Kourbaj comes from a background of fine art, architecture and theatre design. He was born in Syria and trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Damascus, the Repin Institute of Fine Arts & Architecture in Leningrad (St Petersburg) and at Wimbledon School of Art (London). Since 1990, he has lived and worked in Cambridge, eventually becoming an Artist in Residence at Christ’s College and a Bye-Fellow (2007-2011), where he is now the Lector in Art. His installation Another Day Lost was on view at 12g in February 2016.


Firoz Mahmud is a Bangladeshi artist based in Tokyo and New York City.  He completed a BFA and MFA at Dhaka University Institute of Fine Arts and a PhD at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (2010).  He has completed several residencies and exhibits widely throughout the world.


Qinza Najm is a NYC-based Pakistani-American artist who works in painting, installation and performance art. Najm studied painting and drawing at Bath University (UK) and Savannah College of Art and Design. She holds a PhD in psychology from Tennessee State University.


Sahana Ramakrishnan was born in Mumbai, India and raised in Singapore. She earned an BFA in Painting at Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.  Her work has been shown at The Rubin Museum, Field Projects, Gateway Projects Spaces, Elizabeth Foundation of the Arts, A.I.R. Gallery, Front Art Space, and more.


Sa’dia Rehman (b. Queens, NY) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work, through performance, video, installation and large-scale wall drawing, explores how contemporary and historical images—in public and private records—communicate, consolidate and contest ideas about race, power and gender. Her work has been featured in the NYTimesHarper'sArt Papers and ColorLines. She received her MA from City College, CUNY (2006) and MFA from Ohio State University (2017).

Mohsin Shafi is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Lahore, Pakistan. He received his Masters Degree in visual arts (2011) and Bachelors Degree in visual communication (2008) the National College of Arts in Lahore. His work is in the permanent collection of The Museum of Sacred Art in Belgium and has been acquired for the collection of the Department of Book Art at Mills College (San Francisco, CA). 


Marcelino Stuhmer is an artist currently based in Philadelphia. Stuhmer holds a BFA from the University of Utah and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a research fellow in 2001-2002 at Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam and has exhibited work extensively in the United States and Europe. 


Saira Wasim is a Pakistani-American painter who earned her BFA from the National College of Arts, Lahore. Her work has been shown across the United States and Europe, as well as in India and Pakistan since 2000; her work was previously shown at 12g in CARE Package (2012). 


Take it like a ...”; contemporary trends in the aesthetics of violence will be on view from February 1 - March 29, 2019. Gallery hours are Wed - Sat: 11-5 and by appointment. For additional information please contact Aisha Zia Khan at (215)253-8578 or by email: