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Boca Museum of Art's Afghan Rugs: The Contemporary Art of Central Asia

Boca Museum of Art, Afghan Rugs: The Contemporary Art of Central Asia - Portrait Rug (Amanullah Khan), knotted wool, Afghanistan, acquired in Peshawar (Pakistan), 1985, 53 ¼ x 33 ½ inches.

Portrait Rug (Amanullah Khan), knotted wool, Afghanistan, acquired in Peshawar (Pakistan), 1985, 53 ¼ x 33 ½ inches.

Featuring more than 40 rugs from a private European collection, and travelling for the first time to museums in North America, “Afghan Rugs: The Contemporary Art of Central Asia” shines a light on how war has become embedded in Afghan culture. Curated by Enrico Mascelloni and Annemarie Sawkins, PhD, and on display from May 3 through July 27 at the Boca Museum of Art, these works were each selected for their expert craftsmanship and stunning imagery. This is one of the most distinct and complete collections of Afghan war rugs in the world, made mostly by women artists who have moved from the traditional nonfigurative style to create a tapestry that tells the greater story of a country and region.

   Exquisitely woven, each rug contains untraditional motifs, as exemplified in War Rug with Map of Afghanistan (pictured bottom right), where half of the rugs feature cityscapes, portraits, landscapes and maps, while the other half pull on themes of war, invasion and bloodshed—a nod to the tumultuous past and present of a country torn by war for decades—with depictions of weaponry, tanks, helicopters and military leaders, khans and kings. While maintaining the ancient process of Afghan rug making and updating it with nontraditional, mechanized imagery, this exhibition speaks to larger narrative, a metaphor for the changing cultural landscape of Central Asia as it comes to terms with modernity while maintaining tradition.

War Rug with Map of Afghanistan, knotted wool, Baghlan (Afghanistan), acquired in Peshawar (Pakistan), 1998,  71 ¾ x 45 ¼ inches

War Rug with Map of Afghanistan, knotted wool, Baghlan (Afghanistan), acquired in Peshawar (Pakistan), 1998,

71 ¾ x 45 ¼ inches

  • “Afghan Rugs: The Contemporary Art of Central Asia” will be on display from May 3 to July 27.
  • On May 3, guest curator Annemarie Sawkins, PhD, will lead the lecture “Afghanistan in Pictures: A View of the Country from its Weavers,” from 5-6 p.m. at the exhibition opening.
  • On May 15 from 2-3 p.m., the Curatorial Highlight Tour series will spotlight “Afghan Rugs.” Led by Marisa Pascucci, discover the singular beauty and astounding creativity found in rugs from a region that has been in religious, social, and political conflict for decades.
  • On May 18 at 2:30 p.m., the Art Talk series will tackle the meaning of the contemporary Afghan rugs. Learn more about the beauty and imagery behind the art with Rutgers University Professor Paul Sprachman as he discusses their history, makers, and owners as well as the images and the intriguing details of the rug industry. Professor Sprachman addresses these questions by drawing on a nearly forty-five-year acquaintance with the languages, literature, and woven arts of Central Asia.

 

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