This week, Jared Bowen brings us “Abstraction from the Arab World” at the McMullen Museum of Art and “A Woman of the World” presented virtually by Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

“Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980s,” on view at the McMullen Museum of Art through June 13

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World
Ibrahim El-Salahi (Omdurman, Sudan, 1930–) The Last Sound, 1964. Oil on canvas, 47.9 × 47.9 in.
Courtesy of the McMullen Museum of Art and the Barjeel Art Foundation

Discover a trove of abstract artwork never before seen in the United States at the McMullen Museum of Art. “Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980s” is a groundbreaking exhibition that features mid-twentieth-century abstract and modern art from the Arab diaspora stretching from North Africa to West Asia — a region often ignored in the Western art canon. Drawn from the Barjeel Art Foundation’s collection of nonfigurative Arab art, the works on view feature artists from a range of countries, backgrounds and religions who often infused their impressions of Western art with the deep, cultural touchstones of their newly independent nations. Within the exhibition stand examinations of Sufism, calligraphy and historic elements of pharaonic and Mesopotamian artifacts.

“It's almost like being an archeologist,” says founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. “Many of the artists in this show had been forgotten towards the latter end of the 20th century, and so I feel like what we are doing now is reintroducing them into the world.”

“A Woman of the World,” presented virtually by Merrimack Repertory Theatre through May 30

A Woman of the World
Denise Cormier in "A Woman of the World" by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Courtney Sale, in rehearsal at Liberty Hall.
Kathy Wittman, courtesy of Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Merrimack Repertory Theatre presents a streaming production of “A Woman of the World.” This work by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rebecca Gilman is a one-woman play examining the life of Mabel Loomis Todd, a friend and later editor of poet Emily Dickinson. Todd has been remembered by history as a controversial figure. While she is credited with introducing Dickinson’s poetry to the world, some argue she exploited Dickinson’s legacy to generate her own fame after the poet’s death. Denise Cormier stars as Todd, an unapologetic and unfiltered force who regales the audience with sensational tales of her life with the Dickinson family and her own escape from the social binds of 19th century women.

“A captivating character study, 'A Woman of the World' presents Mabel Loomis Todd roiling with audacity, conviction and an untethered spirit,” says Jared. “With Denise Cormier’s engaging portrayal and Rebecca Gilman’s textured writing, Todd secures a place among American history’s most curious and beguiling characters.”

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