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Press Release

CMA unveils new sculpture and announces summer exhibition
by South Carolina-based artist Steven Naifeh


Please note: To schedule an interview with the artist, contact the CMA press office at 803.343.2170

COLUMBIA, SC - The Columbia Museum of Art announces the installation of a new sculpture on Boyd Plaza this month and presents a major exhibition this summer by South Carolina-based artist Steven Naifeh.

“I combine influences from the history of Western art and motifs derived from Islamic art into powerful, large-scale and colorful abstract art. I am honored that this sculpture will be shown in such a beautiful way at the Columbia Museum of Art,” Naifeh said.

At 13-feet high and made out of galvanized steel painted a bright blue, Jali will enliven the Plaza with its high-energy presence and masterful construction. Jali is a bold example of geometric abstraction, a style expressing movement and dynamism using geometric forms. In creating this sculpture, Naifeh sought to fuse the Western desire for innovation with the Islamic tradition of locating absolute harmony. The name Jali is derived from an Indian word meaning a perforated stone or latticed screen, usually with a decorative pattern using geometric shapes and sometimes calligraphy or floral elements. The sculpture was constructed and fabricated in Columbia.

In addition, the CMA has organized the first retrospective museum exhibition of Naifeh’s paintings and sculpture entitled Found in Translation: The Art of Steven Naifeh. It will be on view this summer in the CMA special exhibition galleries from May 18 to September 1, 2013. The 26 large-scale works of modern art reflect Naifeh’s personal taste, preferences and attitudes about geometric abstraction that developed over the span of 40 years. It is hardly surprising that Naifeh’s childhood in the Middle East educated his eye to the rigorous forms of Arab and Islamic art. For more than 1,000 years, geometry has been central to Islamic art and architecture. In his art, Naifeh achieves a synthesis of West and East as well as old and new, a blending of cultures recognized early on in the art he made here in America. His work represents universal harmony and attains this geometric symmetry beautifully with intellectual discipline, rigorous skill and authentic joy in the process of communication.

“Steven Naifeh’s art reflects and celebrates the dynamic nature of the Columbia Museum of Art to show art and its influences from around the world that inspire our imagination. We are pleased to bring another new outdoor sculpture to Main Street as it is sure to invoke a sense of excitement, growth and positive energy for downtown Columbia,” CMA Executive Director Karen Brosius said.

Found in Translation is destined to inspire our community and open doors to understanding cultures beyond our own. It shows visitors that what we share culturally is perhaps greater than what separates us. Abstract art is capable of expressing complex ideas like unity and continuity.

"We all need to understand more about the world in which we live, and Naifeh's exhibition is a smart, vibrant way of encountering Middle Eastern ideas," CMA Chief Curator Will South said.

Naifeh has exhibited work throughout the Islamic world including Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Pakistan and the Muslim cities of Kano and Kaduna in Nigeria.

A full-color catalogue will accompany the exhibition and highlight Naifeh’s contributions to abstract and modern art. The catalogue, Found in Translation: The Art of Steven Naifeh, will be available for purchase in the Museum Shop in May 2013.

Exhibition Presenting Sponsor: Mrs. Joyce Martin Hampton
Exhibition Supporting Sponsors: Dr. Gregory J. Wych, The Hilliard Family Foundation, Inc.


About Steven Naifeh

Naifeh studied art with the Nigerian artist Bruce Onobrakpeya. He also studied contemporary art with Sam Hunter, former curator of the Museum of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum, and he studied Islamic art with Oleg Grabar and Cary Welch.

Naifeh and Gregory White Smith published the biography, Van Gogh: The Life, which was recently featured on CBS 60 Minutes. The book was featured on several best book lists for 2011 in The New York Times, The Economist, The Washington Post and was the Sunday Times of London’s Best Art Book of the Year. The CMA hosted Naifeh for a lecture and book signing in January 2012.

The authors have written many books on art and other subjects, including four New York Times bestsellers. Their biography, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, won the Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

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