The galleries and museums of metro Atlanta colleges and universities are important players in the regional art ecosystem. Mounting exhibitions that provide insight into world cultures not represented in commercial galleries or general museums is a consistent contribution.
Two such exhibits are on view now. The art of Islamic calligraphy is the subject of two shows at Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum: “Writing the Word of God” and “Traces of the Calligrapher.” And Kennesaw State University hosts “Living Treasures of Nepal: Masters of Ancient Techniques in a Modern World.”
The Buddhist devotional objects from Nepal are representational, which is obviously not the case with calligraphy. But they share important fundamentals. Both cultures are rooted in and serve religion, and both regard art-making as a profoundly religious practice.
“Living Treasures” is a rich array of objects that encompass the five Buddhist revered arts: lost-wax casting, repousse, stone carving, woodcarving and painting. Colorful paintings and intricate sculptures tell the stories of Buddha and his incarnations.
As I’ve written in a review in the AJC, co-curator Barbara Cook, who founded the Traditional Handicraft Center in Kathmandu in 2006, put the show together to expand awareness of these artists and their work and advocate for the preservation of these art forms.
The Emory exhibition, which I reviewed September 10 in the AJC, is historical. Through rare pages dating from the sixth century forward, it charts the evolution of Islamic scripts in the Middle East, Africa and Spain. It also includes related crafts and the beautiful objects that resulted: handsome writing tools, bookbinding, gorgeously decorated storage boxes.
There’s no denying an emotional undertow here. Any display of beautiful books in the age of Kindles and iPads inevitably strikes a poignant note, and one can’t see pages of the Qur’an and not think about current events. The Carlos sticks to aesthetics and points of agreement: the art of calligraphy is something we can all admire.
Atlanta Imam Plemon T. El-Amin will lead a tour of the Al-Farooq Masjid of Atlanta on November 6. You can reserve a place by calling 404-727-6118.