Anila Quayyum Agha: Flourishing Patterns

Last updated on June 01, 2023

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ORLANDO, FLORIDA [June 1, 2023] — The Mennello Museum of American Art will present the first solo exhibition in Central Florida by Pakistani American artist Anila Quayyum Agha, a multi-media artist whose installations address cultural diversity and immigration. ANILA QUAYYUM AGHA: FLOURISHING PATTERNS is on view from June 23, 2023 – September 24, 2023, with an opening reception on June 23 from 5:30 – 8 p.m. and a guest lecture with the artist the following day, June 24 from 11 a.m. – 12p.m.

The exhibition brings together nine symbolically related works in sculpture, light, projection, paintings, and drawings. Agha’s large-scale installation includes elaborate, laser-cut cubes and a wall-mounted sculptural work of steel, which create an immersive experience while yielding a personal intimacy that is furthered in intricately patterned beaded and embroidered works on paper.

Through her artwork, Agha explores perceived dualities – the meeting of light and shadow, known and unknown, masculine and feminine, private and public, binary ideas traditionally interpreted as having good or bad qualities by many cultures and social systems. The multiple media the artist employs enable her, and by extension the viewer, to consider these many boundaries in which society and humanity exists.

Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director shares–

We are delighted to welcome Anila Quayyum Agha to Orlando for the first time. We are grateful for her sharing her powerfully resonate work with us- especially in a time where greater contemplation and reverence for the beauty and cross-cultural meaning found in broad cultural exchange yields so many positive possibilities.

Curator Katherine Page states–

I am excited to bring the artwork of Anila Quayyum Agha to Central Florida and our visitors at the Mennello Museum. It has been such a pleasure getting to know the artist and the intricacies of her deeply personal work. From her immersive light installations to her delicate drawings, the scale of Agha’s work is both communal and intimate and invites viewers to see, discuss, and share the commonalities between us all. Agha’s practice stands as a beacon of hope for communication, understanding, and building relationships across the boundaries of cultural, social, and political labels that perceivably separate us.


Anila Quayyum Agha is a Pakistani-American artist and educator best known for her installation art. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1965 and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Textile Design from the National College of Arts in Lahore. She later moved to the United States and received her Master of Fine Arts in Fiber Arts from the University of North Texas. Agha has received numerous other awards and honors, including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2015 and a USA Fellowship in 2014. In 2020, Agha was awarded an endowed chair position as the Morris Eminent Scholar in Art at Augusta University in Georgia, further solidifying her reputation as a leading figure in contemporary art contributing to art and culture in the American South.


One of her most critically acclaimed projects is the installation "Intersections" created for Grand Rapids Art Prize, 2014 that won both the Public Vote Grand Prize and the Juried Grand Prize. "Intersections" features a large, cube-shaped structure made of laser-cut wood that casts intricate shadows on the surrounding walls and floors. The installation was inspired by the geometric patterns found in Islamic art and architecture. Agha successfully created a public gathering space that invited people from all backgrounds to come together to share a common experience.


Suspended from above, as though it is floating and lit from within, Agha’s cubes cast lace-like, floor-to-ceiling geometric and arabesque shadows that completely transform the surrounding environment. The shadows cast flood the exhibition space with allusions to architectural designs that developed across cultures and religions throughout history. Agha has been especially inspired to activate the architecture found in Islamic tradition – the richly ornamented public spaces, such as Mosques, that she had been excluded from as a woman growing up in Lahore, Pakistan. Agha finds a great deal of inspiration and symbolism in the public spaces where artisans of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have all come together to produce beautiful, unified structures.


Alongside her large installation pieces, Agha creates drawings in which she employs embroidery, beads, and shimmering light to transcend the flat, two-dimensional plane on which she works. Referring to these pieces as “flatworks,” Agha uses textiles and sewing, which have traditionally been considered women’s work, as a way to explore the interpersonal relationships between social norms, gender, culture, religion, and labor. Through the use of enigmatic patterns, she, and by extension, the viewer, questions the gendering and domestication of craftwork, and, by extension, its exclusion from being considered an art form.


ANILA QUAYYUM AGHA: FLOURISHING PATTERNS is organized by the Mennello Museum of American Art and curated by Katherine Page, Curator of Art and Education, Mennello Museum of American Art.


Mennello Museum of American Art and its exhibitions are generously supported by the City of Orlando and Friends of the Mennello Museum of American Art. Additional funding is provided by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program and United Arts of Central Florida. Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.


Image Credit: Anila Quayyum Agha, Crossing Boundaries: Black, 2017. Laser-cut black lacquered steel and halogen bulb. As installed at Lucid Dreams and Distant Visions: at Asia Society, New York, NY, 2017 . © Anila Quayyum Agha

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