Odyssey of Dreams is out of this world

By Jessica Vento

Iris and the Grasshopper that Flew Away (2006)

Stunning mystical images leave a sense of suspense and drama in the exhibit “An Odyssey of Dreams – A Decade of Paintings 2003-2012” by British artist Basil Alkazzi.

Alkazzi’s exhibit features a collection of 34 large-scale colored gouache and watercolor paintings on handmade paper, characterized by spiritual and metaphysical elements. It is on display at the Art Gallery through March 2. A program discussing the artist’s work will be held on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Art Gallery.

“Basil’s work is truly beautiful,” Dr. Harry Naar, gallery director, said. “The images are spiritual, representational and abstract, realistic and metaphorical. His use of color is both subtle and spectacular. For me, his work can make attachments to the Fauves, Rothko and Kandinsky, to name just a few.”

Along with the exhibition is a hard-cover book that will be available for sale in the gallery, reproducing all the work of the exhibit in full color. There is also an extensive interview conducted by Naar.

According to Alkazzi’s website, basilalkazzi.com, “He has traveled extensively and for long periods of time through the whole of western Europe, and for a time he lived in Greece. Since 1985 he became enamored with America, and all that it stands for and aspires to, and since then, he continued to spend periods of time in New York. From 1995 until 2000 he was granted residence in the USA as An Artist of Exceptional Ability in the Arts.”

The Artist of Exceptional Ability in the Arts is a nonimmigrant visa granted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to people who live outside of the country.

Kiss of the Butterfly VI (2003)

According to the uscis.gov website, the visa is for “the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.”

According to Naar, the Basil Alkazzi exhibition came about through the efforts of Judith K. Brodsky, a retired Rutgers professor who is a distinguished professor emerita in the Department of Visual Arts at Rutgers. She is also the founding director of the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, now called the Brodsky Center. Brodsky is fond of Alkazzi’s spiritual quality that influences his artworks.

“They make one think about the vastness of the universe on the one hand and the mysteries of nature on the other,” Brodsky said. “I see his paintings as coming from the tradition of metaphysical abstraction, as for instance, in the work of the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko. While they are rooted in 20th-century modernist art, they are very much of the 21st century.”

Brodsky notes how Alkazzi’s work is influenced by the traveling he has done over the years.

“There is a universality to Alkazzi’s work that reflects his experience of living in many different places and cultures,” Brodsky said. “He has traveled not only in western Europe and America, but also in Japan, China and Tibet. His knowledge of Asian art has definitely influenced his work.”

Alkazzi is a prolific and, in his own words, a “compulsive” painter. His distinguished career spans 50 years, and his work is held in the public collections of museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Hirshhorn Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Santa Barbara Museum, the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, The National Council in Kuwait, and Centrum Sztuki in Warsaw, Poland. Six monographs of his work have been published, the most recent being Resonant Echoes – The Art of Basil Alkazzi by Dennis Wepman.

Anthurium I (2004)

Brodsky and Naar are former colleagues, so she helped bring the show to Rider.

“Since Brodsky had participated in her own one-person exhibition at Rider a few years ago and also because she greatly admired the exhibitions that we have presented, she approached me with the idea of exhibiting Basil’s work,” Naar said.

This traveling exhibition that has been presented at the Bradbury Gallery, Arkansas State University, The Anne Kittrell Gallery, and the University of Arkansas. From Rider, the exhibition will travel to The Rosenberg Gallery, Maryland Institute College of Art and The Sheldon Museum of Art, and the University of Nebraska.

“To quote Basil, ‘Travel, especially of long durations, open vistas and very human contacts, to actually look, see, and contemplate the many dazzling beautiful parts of our Earth, to see, feel, eat and live as much as possible as the indigenous people do, is very enriching to both the body and the mind, and the soul,’” Naar said.


Printed in the 2/12/14 edition

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