Discover Idris Khan’s First U.S. Solo Exhibition, “Repeat After Me,” at the Milwaukee Art Museum – April 5- August 11

Idris Khan Seasons, 2021
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Acclaimed British-born Idris Khan, a 2017 appointed O.B.E. (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Art in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List, is a contemporary conceptual artist who began his career using the medium of photography to create a new vision of art. Photographs capture one moment in time. Khan extends time through repetition. He layers scans and photographs from art, music, literature, philosophical, and spiritual sources to effect memory and emotion and give tribute to classical artists who came before.

Every…Bernd and Hilla Becher Spherical Type Gasholder (2004)

Idris Khan, born in Birmingham, England 1978, received a Bachelor of Arts in 2000 from the University of Derby and a Master of Fine Arts from the Royal College of Art in London in 2004. He has had solo exhibitions in Paris and Dusseldorf. His work has been included in London, San Francisco, Washington, and New York group exhibitions. The Milwaukee Art Museum is his first American solo exhibit, featuring a twenty-year retrospective and groundbreaking never-before-seen works.

 every…William Turner Postcard from Tate Britain, 2004 Chromogenic print

In 2004, his Muslim Pakistani surgeon father encouraged him to photograph every page of the Holy Qur’an. His layered repeated image of each 1,953 page renders it illegible in text yet creates a beautiful original piece of Islamic art. This extraordinary homage and his Muslim roots Khan credits with his repetitive mode of art making. He also uses classical musical scores to honor his mother, who was happiest when she played the piano. Khan says, “Through my artistic practice, I have always repeated things layer on top of layer, and I suppose that repetition and that sort of recurrence somehow influences everything I make today.”

Khan Underneath the Willow, 2022

On Thursday, April 4, we were given a delightful preview of a 20-year retrospective of Khan’s extraordinary, amazing work. This exhibition is expertly curated by Marcelle Polednik, Ph.D., who is the Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Marcelle Polednik and Idris Khan led us through the “Repeat After Me” exhibition with observations on Khan’s influences, inspirations, and processes. Khan began with texturally rich composite print photography borrowed and recreated from original gelatin prints such as Bernd and Hilla Becher’s industrial Gas Tank, which we saw on display. His reconfiguration through layering gives the architectural industrial image an almost transparent, ghostly quality.

Khan Blue Bells-Present No More 2022

We see Khan’s evolution as an artist in encompassing other mediums, from prints to sculpture, video, watercolor, paintings, and works in bronze and paper. He also includes some of his one-hundred thousand stamp markers, which he uses to express words, memories, and emotions in his creations. One of my favorite pieces, though hard to choose because the exhibition is so entirely marvelous, is Overture, 2015. Oil on glass with an aluminum frame was created during one of the artist’s darkest moments while experiencing the death of his mother and his artist’s wife, Annie Morris’s stillborn child. Nevertheless, this piece streams translucent light and fluidity despite all the words of grief inscribed on it.

Overture 2015 Idris Khan

The reverence Khan has for art, classics, philosophy, and architecture, capturing memory to visualize it, is so evident in his works. More recent examples of his work move from monochromatic to include bold colors inspired by his family’s move from London to historic Petworth in the sweeping hills of bucolic West Sussex during the Pandemic. He was closer to nature and the seasons’ changes in color. He noticed the natural colors and no doubt seeing Annie Morris’s embrace of bold complementary colors influenced him even to create his own jewel-like blue color. His latest works are highly textural deconstructed color palettes and abstract representations of masterpieces from the 16th and 18th centuries, including Milwaukee Art Museum’s own Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb (1630/34) by Francisco de Zurbarán.

Please avail yourself of this link to partially enjoy the journey Dr. Polednik and Khan shared with us during the media preview. To plan your visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Photos: Courtesy of Milwaukee Museum of Art


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