Desert to Delta – Memphis, TN

"At first glance, the connections between Saudi Arabia and Memphis, Tennessee might seem thin. However, common denominators begin to appear quickly with a little thought. Where the comparisons are truly striking is in the arts. In the same way that music made a name for Memphis in the 1950s and 1960s, today a generation of young visual and video artists is putting contemporary art from Saudi Arabia on the international cultural map."

—Dr. Leslie Luebbers & Edmund Warren Perry Jr

Desert to Delta at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis (AMUM) presents 20 artists and a video artist collective from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The exhibition opened with a public reception for visiting artists on October 8, 2017 and ran through January 6, 2018.

Curated by AMUM, selected work ranges from seemingly traditional manuscript illumination to bold “calligraffiti,” from bronze sculpture to sound and “scent” portraits, from cell-phone photography to multi-media installation. Saudi artists address issues that resonate throughout the world: environmental degradation, economic disparity, urban growth and loss of traditional culture, social inequality of women and minorities, and escalating tensions between and among ideologies. While these concerns may be universal, Saudi artists approach them through the lens of their country’s unique history and forms of cultural expression. For example, Abdulnasser Gharam’s “Camouflage,” a giant mixed media painting depicts a military tank with an orange flower sprouting from its gun against the background of an opulently tiled Iranian mosque. Combining traditional Muslim arabesques and geometric designs and printed aphorisms, the artist addresses religious sectarianism and armed conflict among Islamic state and non-state actors all superimposed on a ground of 1000s of tiny rubber stamp elements, symbols of Saudi’s bureaucratic regimentation. By contrast, the video collective Telfaz 11, hilariously confronts the disconnect between Saudis’ traditions and their desire to participate contemporary international culture.

In partnership with

Ithra Amum

Release Date

October 2017


Art Museum of the University of Memphis
Memphis, TN United States

Brooks Desertto Delta Discussion10 1

Installation view of 'Desert to Delta'

AMUM Director, Leslie Luebbers speaking at a panel discussion hosted by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art on the occasion of 'Desert to Delta'

Yusef Alahmad with his neon work, 'Girls, Girls, Girls'

Installation view of 'Desert to Delta'

View the full catalogue of 'Desert to Delta' from the Art Museum of the University of Memphis

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