Oklahoma Contemporary
Close-up Off the Wall logo with Sarah Ahmad's work in the background

New Light

Feb. 15, 2022

A Challenge to the Traditional

Soon-to-open Off the Wall interprets universal human experiences through three distinct, interactive, 3-D styles

When we discuss art galleries, what do we think? For many, white walls, few windows and humidity control may come to mind. What would happen if we let that go? What could we dream up if the traditional view of the gallery were to change? What if it were to evolve? Off the Wall, opening Feb. 17, does just that.

Reinventing the idea of the gallery, Oklahoma-based artists Sarah Ahmad, romy owens and Marium Rana’s installations utilize the physical and vertical volume of the Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery, exploring the concept and experience of the gallery in a radically different way. Through cutting-edge technology, intricate painting, fiber, textiles and mixed media, the three artists’ distinctive styles bring an interactive component to their pieces, simultaneously existing independently and in conversation with one another.

Detail view with shadows of Sarah Ahmad's installation.
Sarah Ahmad, Jaali: “Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” (Rumi)

Inspired by her Pakistani heritage, Sarah Ahmad does not simply reproduce traditional designs, but rather creates universal visual elements that aim to explore the interconnected ideas of aesthetics. Involving and repurposing fragments from older works, her Off the Wall installation — Jaali: “Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” (Rumi) — reconceives heritage patterns. This process reflects her journey through redefining her relationship to culture, family and time. On select Thursday evenings, Ahmad will provide flashlights so visitors can interact and illuminate the piece. Viewers can explore Ahmad’s technologically generated materials and the shadows they cast, which will vary based on each viewer’s perception, hinting at the malleable capabilities of material form.

Detail view of one panel of Marium Rana's installation.
Marium Rana, Awaiting Arrival

Also stemming from Pakistani roots, Marium Rana’s three large, hanging “scrolls” hold space for her own experiences throughout the U.S. via highly detailed Mughal-style paintings. Embedded with her immigration story, the flowing panels of Awaiting Arrival visually collapse the geographic distance between New York, Florida, Oklahoma and Pakistan. The flowing panels require movement, encouraging viewers to travel around the hanging scrolls, existing within and outside of Rana’s history. Handheld mirrors will be provided on select Thursdays to allow the audience to transport through the panels, framing themselves, the space and other artworks within view.

Detail view of romy owen's installation.
romy owens, Nothing Can Be Perfect

Keeping with traditional Asian approaches, romy owens’ fiber installations provide a Western take on mandala patterns. Webbing and intersecting lines reach from different points of the gallery, bridge together and seamlessly interconnect. In some areas, the viewer can approach Nothing Can be Perfect, while in others, the work requires a further-back approach, transforming the gallery space. In the final week of the exhibition, visitors are invited to slice, cut and unravel owens’ installation, shifting the work from a state of order to a state of disorder, a commentary on the fragility of even the most rigid of compositions.

With themes of history, space and people, Off the Wall offers moments of contemplation and experiences engaging with all the elements of this transformative and immersive exhibition. Debuting with a reception at 6 p.m. this Thursday, Feb. 17, the artists’ works will capture its audience, followed by an artist talk in Te Ata Theater lead by Associate Curator Pablo Barrera.

Be among the first to see the works and hear from the artists at Thursday’s opening. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Get yours here. Want to stop by the exhibition later in the week? Snag your free gallery tickets here. The talk will also be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.


Off the Wall logo. 

Detail view of Sarah Ahmad's Jaali: “Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” (Rumi), 2022. MDF screen carvings, wood, and enamel paint. © Sarah Ahmad.

Detail view of Marium Rana's Awaiting Arrival, 2022. Acrylic, watercolor, ink, vinyl, decorative paper, embroidery, silver leaf, found children’s book pages, and metallic film on printmaking paper. © Marium Rana. Photo courtesy the artist

Detail view of romy owens' Nothing Can be Perfect, 2022. Polyester thread and nails. © romy owens. Photo courtesy the artist.

Tags tags
exhibition Sarah Ahmad Marium Rana romy owens fiber art textiles mixed media Oklahoma Gallery contemporary art interactive art 3-D

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