Rana Begum’s Public Artwork: Interplay of light, form, nature, architecture

The ambitious, site-specific installations No.1187 Mesh and No. 1193 Mesh by Rana Begum (born 1977 in Sylhet, Bangladesh), commissioned by the Moody Center for the Arts, push the material and conceptual possibilities of public artwork. On view at Rice University in Houston, Texas, until December 17, 2022, Begum’s work is the latest installation in the Moody’s Platform series which has featured artists Jarrod Beck, Nina Katchadourian, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Edra Soto, and We Make Carpets.

A continuation of the artist’s focus on the interplay between light, color, and form, these immersive assemblies blur the boundaries between sculpture, painting, and architecture. As in previous installations at the Botanic Square, London City Island and Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, London, Begum’s use of industrial materials, repetitive geometric patterns, and vibrant colors brilliantly activate the surrounding architecture.

Installed in two separate locations on campus, No.1187 Mesh and No. 1193 Mesh are multi-modular works that echo each other in form and color, but independently respond to the adjacent buildings and natural environment. The panels’ structure and saturated pink, orange, and yellow coating interplay with the Moody building’s award-winning design by Michael Maltzan and the facade of the Rice School of Architecture’s Anderson Hall, originally designed by Staub and Rather in 1947 and expanded by Stirling and Wilford in 1981.

Complementing the hyperlocal, physical considerations of this work, Begum utilized locally-sourced powder-coated, industrial steel mesh and assembled the outdoor installations on opposite ends of Rice’s campus, thus allowing the work to reflect the macro implications of Houston as a city defined by its sprawling development and ceaseless construction. These works represent the first time the artist has used mesh panels for an outdoor location“These dazzling structures offer an all-encompassing experience for the viewer,” said Frauke Josenhans, curator, Moody Center for the Arts. “Visitors to the Moody can walk through and around the towering structure, which reappears on the northwest side of campus, prompting questions about our relationship with the built environment and how it is activated by our personal experience and physical interaction.”

Begum conceived of the project after accepting an invitation to participate in Platform as an extension of the Moody’s fall exhibition Urban Impressions: Experiencing the Global, Contemporary Metropolis, on view until December 17, 2022. The multi-location of this project conceptually responds to the exhibition’s focus on the sensorial experience of the urban environment and creates an innovative exploration of Rice’s engineered and natural surroundings, which underpins the Moody’s Platform series.

Rana Begum (b. 1977, Sylhet, Bangladesh) earned a BA from the Chelsea College of Art and Design, London, in 1999, and received an MFA in Painting from the Slade School of Art, London, in 2002. The artist has been the subject of various solo exhibitions, notably at the Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, London; the Wanås Konst Skulpture Park, Knislinge, Sweden; Tate St Ives, Cornwall, UK; Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, UK; and other institutions. Her work has been included in several exhibitions and biennials around the world, such as the Creative Folkestone Triennial, Kent, UK; the Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh; Kettles Yard, Cambridge, UK; Gemeente Museum, Den Haar, Netherlands; and the 11the Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea. Begum received the Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture (2012), the Abraaj Group Art Prize (2017), and she was elected a Royal Academician in 2019. Begum lives and works in London, United Kingdom.

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Honorary contributors to DesPardes: Adil Khan, Ajaz Ahmed, Anwar Abbas, Arif Mirza, Aziz Ahmed, Bawar Tawfik, Dr. Razzak Ladha, Dr. Syed M. Ali, G. R. Baloch, Haseeb Warsi, Hasham Saddique, Jamil Usman, Javed Abbasi, Jawed Ahmed, Ishaq Saqi, Khalid Sharif, Majid Ahmed, Masroor Ali, Md. Ahmed, Md. Najibullah, Mushtaq Siddiqui,, Mustafa Jivanjee, Nusrat Jamshed, Shahbaz Ali, Shahid Hamza, Shahid Nayeem, Shareer Alam, Syed Ali Ammaar Jafrey, Syed Hamza Gilani, Shaheer Alam, Syed Hasan Javed, Syed M. Ali, Tahir Sohail, Talha Alam, Tariq Chaudhry, Usman Nazir, Yasir Raza