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Alaa Awad's 'Thebes' to Open With Exhibition at MCLA Gallery 51 & Mural Unveiling fo DSA 2014 Kick Off

06/11/2014

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' (MCLA) Gallery 51 has announced that "Thebes," an exhibition of work by Egyptian artist Alaa Awad, will open on Thursday, June 26. As part of this exhibit, Awad will create an original mural along the Route 2 Overpass, to be revealed on June 26 in conjunction with this season's kick off of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center's (BCRC) DownStreet Art initiative.

Through the use of pharaonic motifs and calligraphy, Awad's murals and paintings link Egypt's revolutionary present to its ancient past.  "Thebes" will be Awad's first exhibition and commissioned mural in the United States.

A reception with Awad will be held on Thursday, June 26, 6 - 9 p.m. The exhibition will run through July 27.

A graduate and faculty member of the Luxor Faculty of Fine Arts in Egypt, Awad temporarily left his post to take part in the January 25, 2011 Revolution in Tahrir Square. Together with other artists, he brought his art to the street in protest of censorship, social injustice and civilian lives lost during the Revolution. In the weeks that passed following the demonstration, Awad painted murals rich with the symbols of historical, pharaonic art across the walls of Mohamad Mahmoud Street.

The familiar figures he paints - ancient gods, chimeric beasts, stylized bodies in profile - draw from Egypt's rich history of tomb paintings, and are recontextualized to reflect the country's political and social realities. In one, a group of contemporary Egyptian women shrouded in robes mourn the martyrs of Tahrir Square, black flowers in their hands. The gods Osiris and Nut appear, guiding the soul toward the heavens.

Awad does not purport to try to make political statements in his work: his goal is to honor the dignity of people, making sacred their memory, and celebrating the resilience and imaginative capacities of humankind. Overall, he seeks to instill contemporary Egyptians with pride in their heritage, encouraging social justice, accountability, and balance.

"Ancient Egypt was a big civilization," according to Awad. "I must make people remember this culture, this history - because we can lose it. And we can't know our future if we forget our past."

An initiative of MCLA's BCRC, DownStreet Art (DSA) is a public art project designed to revitalize North Adams. By harnessing existing art organizations and events and transforming vacant and open spaces into art destinations, DownStreet Art defines North Adams as a cultural haven, driving tourists and community members.

For more information about DownStreet Art events and the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, go to www.downstreetart.org and www.mcla.edu/bcrc. For downloadable photos, go to www.flickr.com/photos/bcrc/sets/72157645168109813/.