Anila Quayyum Agha examines issues of global politics, cultural identity, mass media and gender roles in her multi-disciplinary practice. The Pakistani-American artist is best known for her immersive, large-scale light installations in which she laser-cuts elaborate patterns into three-dimensional cubes. Suspended and lit from within, the cubes cast lace-like, floor-to-ceiling shadows that completely transform the surrounding environment, alluding to the richly ornamented public spaces such as mosques that Agha was excluded from as a female growing up in Lahore.
In addition to her suspended light installations, Agha also creates wall-mounted sculptural works, including her Flowers series (2018) that explores love and loss inspired by the mixed emotions she experienced following her son’s wedding and mother’s passing, events that happened in the same year. Although these works may appear decorative, they are imbued with meaning, from the floral patterns that express the beauty and femininity of her mother, to the metallic threads commonly used for wedding dresses in Pakistan. The visual elements collectively amplify the interplay between the matrimonial and the funereal, and by extension, the larger cycle of life.
To produce these elaborate works, Agha laser-cuts vibrantly hued encaustic paper with intricate patterns and adorns them with light-reflecting embroidery and beads. These exquisitely detailed drawings are framed within shadow boxes, allowing light to pass through the cut-outs and cast patterned shadows in a manner similar to her large-scale light installations. The framing and shadows allow these works to transcend their two-dimensionality.
Anila Quayyum Agha has an M.F.A.in fiber arts from the University of North Texas. She has exhibited her work across the globe, including in the 2018 Kansas City Biennale, curated by Dan Cameron; the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts; the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York; the Dallas Contemporary Art Museum, Texas; the National Museum of Sculpture, Valladolid, Spain; and the Cheongju Craft Biennale, Korea. Her work is in the collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio; the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Michigan; and the Kiran Nader Art Museum, New Delhi. In 2014, Agha was awarded the popular and juried vote at ArtPrize for her installation Intersections, a first in the history of the Grand Rapids-based competition.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, 1965 | Lives and works in Indianapolis, Indiana