NYUAD NYU Abu DhabiThe NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery exhibition
The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery’s auxiliary venue, The Project Space, will open its final exhibition for the season, Symbiotic: Hyperreal, by Emirati artists and brothers Talal Al Najjar and Ziad Al Najjar, tomorrow, June 1, at 5:30pm. The exhibition will run for two weeks from Thursday, June 1 to Wednesday, June 14.

Curated by Tala Nassar, Associate Manager of Curatorial Projects at The NYUAD Art Gallery, Symbiotic: Hyperreal showcases the works of the artists, who create a quality of simulation, unrealness, or hyperreality. Despite working closely together, the brothers maintain a distinct individual practice, as they draw upon their relationship with their surroundings, particularly Dubai, where they grew up.

The term Symbiotic in the title describes the several dualities that manifest in the show: that of two brothers, that of the two cultures in their family of origin, and that of life in the UAE, with its attendant tension between tradition and modernity. Through their work, the artists search for balance between their traditional Emirati heritage and the experience of living in modern Dubai. The artists emulate this experience of dualities by applying ancient motifs from various cultures to a contemporary context.

Talal Al Najjar, NAUSEA v1 (detail), 2023. Acrylic and vinyl on
canvas, 211 x 76 cm. Courtesy of the artist

This exhibition is a fitting way to finish what has been one of our strongest and most thought-provoking seasons yet at The Project Space. Viewed together, the works of Talal and Ziad Al Najjar create an arresting quality of hyperreality, akin to the inability to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality. From the moment that the viewer enters the space, they are watching but there is also a sense of being watched. This sensation expresses the experience of our fraught reality today, mediated by algorithms, deep fakes, and artificial intelligence, but also offers us a way to see this reality from a new perspective that gives us more control of the way we respond to the pressures of new technologies.

Tala Nassar, Curator, Associate Manager of Curatorial Projects

The creation of dual realities is at the forefront of Talal and Ziad’s artistic practice. Talal’s work tends to recontextualize transhistorical material culture and imagery with a counter-futurist lens. One such example is his NauseaScape video series, where Talal creates his own world from publicly accessible virtual reality tours of Sharjah’s archaeological sites. Meanwhile, Ziad’s work investigates the relationship between humans and the surrounding environment, exploring the ways we observe, and the ways that other living beings observe us. An example is his single-channel video titled Ameba, where Ziad replicates and manipulates scenes of nature to abstract the surrounding environment, almost as if the viewer is experiencing technical difficulties while observing nature. Located in The Arts Center and supported by the museum staff of The NYUAD Art Gallery, The Project Space is a non-commercial gallery dedicated to Abu Dhabi community projects. The Project Space gives priority to exhibitions from within the academic and regional community, including the annual Senior Capstone Festival, faculty-curated exhibitions, experimental projects, and the work of regional emerging artists.

Talal Al Najjar

Talal Al Najjar received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2021) and his MFA from the Art Center College of Design, in Los Angeles (2023). He has shown his work internationally including the Jameel Arts Center, and Alserkal Avenue (both Dubai); the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago); and the Art Center College of Design (Los Angeles).

Ziad Al Najjar, Colosseum, 2023. Acrylic, pastel, and mixed media on canvas, 381 x 233.68 cm. Courtesy of the artist

Ziad Al Najjar

Ziad Al Najjar received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2023). He has shown his work internationally, including exhibitions at Tabari Artspace, Sikka Art Festival, and Maisan15 (all Dubai); the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago); and Gallery Bawa (Kuwait City).

Tala Nassar, Associate Manager of Curatorial Projects at The Art Gallery

Born in Amman, Jordan, Tala Nassar earned her BA in Art and Art History from NYUAD in 2019. Soon after her graduation, Nassar was selected as The NYUAD Art Gallery’s inaugural David Webb Museum Fellow, and later as the Associate Manager of Curatorial Projects, where she currently works. Within her role, Nassar has served as Curatorial Research Assistant on a number of UAE-based projects, including Artists and the Cultural Foundation: The Early Years (Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi, 2018), which included a book publication surveying 18 artists’ 30-year journey at the foundation. Most recently, she was the Curatorial Research Assistant for Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset (the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates at the Venice Biennale, Venice, 2022) as well as Editorial Assistant for the accompanying bilingual publication in both English and Arabic. That same year, she was Assistant Curator and researcher for Khaleej Modern, a landmark survey of the emergence of modern art in the Arabian Gulf, at The NYUAD Art Gallery.

In spring 2023, she was admitted to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)’s MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History program, where she will pursue graduate study of art history. She has also been selected by SAIC’s department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism as the 2023-2025 Mohn Family Graduate Fellow.

About The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Established in 2014, The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery is the Gulf’s first and only university gallery with a program of scholarly and experimental museum exhibitions. The program seeks to map new territories and ideas through presenting exhibitions by internationally established artists, curators, and scholars at its main space. Its auxiliary venue, the Project Space, is an exhibition laboratory for the university community, and for emerging artists and curators. Situated within NYU Abu Dhabi, the community of which hails from over 115 countries, The Art Gallery organizes free public programs and guided tours in conjunction with its groundbreaking exhibitions. It also produces scholarly publications, which are a core part of its curatorial frame and reflect its academic mission. Collectively, with the Gallery’s Reading Room, these welcoming, intimate spaces open up artistic opportunities and initiate regional and international dialogue.

For more information, please visit www.nyuad-artgallery.org

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective program with majors in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, arts, and humanities with a world center for advanced research. Its campus enables students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world, and to advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from some 125 countries and speak over 100 languages. Together, NYU’s campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.

For more information, please visit https://nyuad.nyu.edu/en/