“In a way it was continuation of my graph paper geometry. As I shaded areas, space became complex and non-measurable. I shaded with a formal idea based on medieval Arabic abstraction where both shape and background were treated in ways that pulled them to one surface, to the front. Thus they vied for space in the frontal plane. Since the parts were shaded imitating the unstable surface appearance of shiny metals, the resulting spatial tension created a relativity of parts in spite of shading”- Samia Halaby
Christie’s presents a striking pair of early works by the Palestinian artist Samia Halaby, executed in the 1970s when her interest in geometrical abstractions and their potential for striking visual effects began. Works of this period are extremely rare and well sought-after for their visual opulence, embodied sense of infinite movement and speed, and carefully constructed compositions planned on graph paper. During the 1970s, Halaby’s geometric explorations evolved from rectangular to helical and cycloid curves, conceptually expanding her perspectives from outward rather than just inward. It was during this time Halaby took a position at the Yale School of Art, and eventually became the first full-time woman faculty member.
Born in Jerusalem, and growing up in Jaffa, Halaby moved to the United States in 1951 after the 1948 Nakba. Today, Halaby continues to push the threshold of her practice in her New York studio she has worked from since 1976, with an expansive oeuvre in abstraction articulated through her paintings, drawings, silk-screen prints, stone lithographs, computer-generated kinetic works and hanging sculptures. Her engagement in Islamic abstraction is intertwined with modern art movements of the West. As prominent in her artistic practice, she is also a notable teacher and scholar, her book “Liberation Art of Palestine: Palestinian Paintings and Sculpture in the Second Half of the 20th Century” is a distinguished text for Palestinian art history, and her research and emotionally moving drawings of the Kafr Qasem massacre have documented and drawn attention to the injustices suffered by Palestinians. In 1966 while teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute, Halaby travelled to Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Palestine to study the architectural landmarks, Islamic architecture and heritage sites, returning with renewed appreciation. While her work is informed by the polychromatic mosaics, geometry and patterns of the Arab world, she is well informed by a Western art history focus and pays close attention to the Russian avant-garde art movement and the German Bauhaus school.