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83 of 10,402

Syed Ahmad Jamal

(Malaysian, 1929–2011)

Rockin’

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Object Details

Artist

Syed Ahmad Jamal

Date

1969

Medium

Acrylic on canvas

Dimensions

52 × 54 inches (132.1 × 137.2 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Dolores D. Wharton and Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.

Object
Number

99.074.005

Syed Ahmad Jamal served a vital role in the development of Malaysian modern art throughout his caree(…)

Syed Ahmad Jamal served a vital role in the development of Malaysian modern art throughout his career as artist, teacher, art historian, and director of the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. In London and Chicago he encountered the art of Kandinsky, Klee, German Expressionism, and Abstract Expressionism, and also interacted with a global community that included Indonesian artist Affandi.Jamal and other Malaysian artists returning from abroad employed the international visual language of abstraction to confront local issues and social changes taking place during the 1960s and ’70s. On May 13, 1969, following a contentious election, violence erupted among Malays and ethnic Chinese, resulting in numerous deaths. Rockin’ records the artist’s emotional response to the ethnic riots, employing a bright palette and bold, competing forms to heighten the visual tension. This approach resonates with traditional Malay aesthetics in which strong colors that vibrate when used close together characterize woven textiles and material culture, and certain colors carry meaning: red, for example, symbolizes courage, as well as blood. Syed Jamal particularly drew upon aspects of Islamic art and aesthetics in his work, which can be seen in his brush techniques that emulate the movement and rhythm of Islamic jawi script. In this painting the large semicircular as well as straight strokes have been brushed with the sharpness and precision of a calligrapher’s pen. (“Highlights from the Collection: 45 Years at the Johnson,” curated by Stephanie Wiles and presented at the Johnson Museum January 27–July 22, 2018)

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