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Excerpt from "Dialectics of Modernity and Counter-Modernity: Rasheed Araeen's Cruciform Works" by Zöe Sutherland

From the mid-1980s to the early 1990 – in the context of the ebbing of Third World struggle, the end of the Cold War, the consolidation of a restructured capitalism, and a new round of imperialist wars – Araeen made a series of artworks that have since been dubbed his ‘cruciform’ works. In the construction of these works, Araeen gathered and placed together disparate and fragmented images from the world around him, often iconic art-historical, religious, or else political. In addition to using such ‘readymade’ images, these collage-type compositions rework or recycle key themes and forms from Araeen’s previous work, creating a dynamic snapshot of the development of the artist’s own identity over time. Each work thus becomes readable as a window through which to view Araeen’s interrogations of a central artistic and political problematic, situated in relation to a range of global economic and geopolitical shifts. However, their often quite jarring fragments find particular resonance when the works are taken together as a series.


Araeen has emphasized procedure in the making of his subsequent ‘cruciform’ works, which he describes as a process of ‘cutting’ and ‘rupturing’ a green-coloured monochrome. Making a horizontal and vertical cut through the middle of the monochrome in the shape of a cross, Araeen would then separate out the four sections and ‘fill’ the cross-shaped cavity with a range of material he considered ‘incongruent to the purity of Minimalism.’ If Lucio Fontana signals the limits of Western modernist painting, rendering material the historical and ideological nature of the medium – albeit negatively, through slashes and perforations – in his ‘cruciform’ works, Araeen uses the same destructive procedure to indicate the limits of Western modernity itself, pointing at the global structures on which it was founded: colonialism, imperialism, and their attendant mechanisms of abjection. While Fontana’s act belongs to the era of high modernism, before the crumbling of Western colonialism had really begun, Araeen’s embodies disillusionment with both Western modernism and with the outcomes of Third World struggle.

Sutherland, Zöe. "Dialectics of Modernity and Counter-Modernity: Rasheed Araeen's Cruciform Works." In Rasheed Araeen, edited by Nick Aikens, 191-198. Zurich: JRP|Ringier, 2018.