PARALLEL KINGDOM - Station Museum, Houston:

The United States and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have long been allies from the height of the Cold War to the expansion of the oil age, while often remaining divided in ideologies of governance and religion. An oil-driven global economy has fueled an uneasy symbiosis between the two nations allowing for mutual prosperity as well as resentment. Outside of stereotypical Hollywood portrayals, investigative journalism exposés and YouTube videos, very little is known in the United States about the people and culture of Saudi Arabia. This exhibition is a cross-generational survey of contemporary art from the Saudi Arabian peninsula with a special focus on young artists, providing insights into Saudi culture through the creativity and visions of some of the most influential Saudi artists of the 21st century. Through this exhibition we seek to use the visual language and firsthand accounts of these artists to lay a new foundation for discourse and understanding of Saudi society, cultures and politics.

Station Museum Curators

GONZO ARABIA - Gonzo Gallery, Aspen:

What happens when a pioneering group of Saudi artists come to Aspen, Colorado, playground of the rich and famous, once a bastion of free thought, the long lost home of Freak Power in the Rockies, for a meeting of minds? At the confluence of art, journalism, and international affairs, stands the work of Hunter S. Thompson, inventor of Gonzo journalism and one of the great American political commentators of the 20th Century. We bring his work and its contribution to the history of counterculture movements into conversation with leading artists from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Much more than an art exhibition, we aim for this collaborative space to be a bold, experimental platform for dialogue, a canvas for the interplay of theological, cross-cultural, and transnational engagement. Everyone who walks up the stairs into Gonzo Arabia, in the heart of Aspen, will add their own unique dimension and perspective, and be welcomed to participate in a coeducational experiment.

Just as Thompson inserted a radical narrator, a caricature of himself, into his journalism, this experiment puts the artists and their context at the center of their art. We want these organic interactions to serve as a testing ground for an open-minded teaching and learning practice that acknowledges that teachers are learners; that artists, intellectuals, and academics are also products of their social contexts, and therefore the more we interact with each other, the more we can transcend the barriers that illusively divide us.

Four different grassroots organizations came together to create this unique collaboration at the crossroads of two juxtaposed cultures: The Gonzo Gallery of Aspen, the fruit of many years’ work of its founder DJ Watkins; Gharem Studio, the Riyadh-based education and art center established by Abdulnasser Gharem; CULTURUNNERS, a platform for traveling artists spearheaded by Stephen Stapleton; and The Open Mind Project, an educational and social-psychological institution founded by Andrew Scott. With support from the KIng Abdulaziz Center for World Cultures, we have united to provide a unique and innovative installation in the heart of the Colorado Mountains, where borders are bent, and the gates of paradise are open to all. We welcome you, and look forward to the contribution that your attendance represents to this border-dissolving project.

GENERA#ION - Minnesota street Project, San Francisco:

presents San Francisco’s first exhibition of contemporary art from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This timely, cross-generational survey of thirteen artists and two YouTube collectives working at the Center of the Islamic world, is presented at Minnesota Street Project in the heart of the Dogpatch district from August 11 until September 6, 2016.

As the world’s media reports a resurgent tide of religious intolerance and conflict, a tight-knit group of Saudi artists, both men and women, have acted upon a dream to discover the people and diversity of America—from the East to West coast - trekking across the US interstate highway system and major cities on a mission to share not only their innate passion to create but also to learn from the local public’s reactions to their artworks.

As Abdulnasser Gharem, founder of Gharem Studio and a driving force behind the tour, comments, “The artists in this show present a new intellectual paradigm that utilizes unique concepts and terminology to define the artists’ role within their society and their generation. Rather than analyzing art and society separately, the artists confront art as a reflection of society, positioning themselves as its mirrors.”

San Francisco, has always welcomed marginalized groups and outsider voices. Since the 1950s, the Bay area has attracted influential artists, poets and thinkers who have initiated some of the great generational movements of their time. More recently, technological innovation and a cultural renaissance in the heart of downtown have once again put the ‘City of Rebels’ on the world stage.

It now seems fitting that San Francisco welcomes these outsider artists from Saudi Arabia, very much the pioneers of their generation, willing to address cultural norms and taboos and their societal impact. In traveling to the U.S. at this time, they are defying mainstream expectations, reaching out directly to bridge one of the most contested political and ideological borders of our time.

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