Chaldean American Fine Arts Exhibition

Friday, July 20, 2007
By Christopher R. Young

About a dozen artists are featured in the “Chaldean American Fine Arts Exhibition” at the Greater Flint Arts Council. Aside from their shared Chaldean ancestry, there is little else to unify this exhibit.

Sam Selou of Grand Blanc not only coordinated this installation, he has the largest grouping of works on display. “Ishtar Gate” is a mixed-media, free-standing construction replicating in miniature the original mosaic gateway.

Flanking this model are six tableaux, each featuring a raised modeling of an exotic or fanciful animal. Ridges have been carved into the surface to emulate the texture of a mosaic. Then the surface around the beige animal motifs is painted in blending blues and greens to good effect.

Selou’s seven oil paintings crib from a variety of modernist styles. In “Composition 001,” for example, he combines synthetic cubism with surrealism to create a distorted and nightmarish world. The split-faced woman with askew eyes (Picasso) seems to be literally suffering from a meltdown (Dali) as her torso dramatically droops to form two pendulous hips.

Ten digitally manipulated abstract prints by Zuhair Shaaouni of Southfield are genuinely satisfying pictures.

In “Abstrak II,” Shaaouni explores how a complex network of patterns, contrasting grid elements with organic bulging forms in electrifying reds and blues, can create rich textural and optical effects.

By contrast, “Abstrak I” is comprised of gently intersecting fields of muted blue-greens, brown and pale yellow. Shaaouni has accentuated a soothing flatness and stasis in “Abstrak I,” while emphasizing the optical, jittery push-pull of contrasting psychedelic colors in “Abstrak II.”

Among a couple of distinct works contributed by Frances Yaldo of West Bloomfield is a large (approximately 5 feet by 8 feet) low-relief carving, “The Hunt.” The surface has been painted in a faux-finish to make it look like a bronze with a pale grey-green patina.

The subject depicted is not hunting in Michigan, but it looks more like something out of an old “Ben-Hur” movie with an archer in a chariot shooting a pursuing lion. A particularly interesting element is the crouching lion in front of the chariot framed by the galloping horses.

In an acrylic painting, “Boat,” Sulafa Roumayak of Bloomfield Hills depicts a South Seas paradise with houses on stilts at the ocean’s edge. The glowing canary yellow of the boat in the foreground is reiterated in other passages creating a pleasant rhythmic movement through the painting.

Among five photographs by Robert Akrawi of Troy are two riveting black-and-white portraits. “Sherazad” is a sharply focused close-up of an exquisitely beautiful woman’s face in a loosely wrapped silk scarf. Her direct and steady gaze out at the viewer is unflinching.

“Communist Grandfather” is an even more extreme close-up of a deeply wrinkled face with a coarse salt-and-pepper beard. The elaborate patterning of lines is aesthetically appealing and deeply expressive.