Although you won’t find her work at SFMOMA or MOMA NYC, she’s shown her art on three continents. Argentine artist Karina El Azem is famous is South America, but you may not have heard of her yet. She uses non-traditional materials like glass seed beads, pearls, bullet and shell casings to make geometric designs and photo outlines. She goes to firing ranges to salvage the materials that she uses. El Azem arranges the patterns of beads or bullets in a computer program, then follows that sequence in her physical representation of the work, or vice versa.
Karina El Azem graduated with an art degree in 1992 from what is now the Universidad Nacional de las Artes in Buenos Aires. From there she furthered her studies with a Residency in New York, and Workshops in London and Egypt. Karina El Azem has shown her work all around South America: Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Colombia. She has also shown her work in Japan, Mexico, Germany, France, Spain and the US. In 2016, she won the Ugarit Prize for Arab Argentine excellence from the Syrian-Lebanese Club of Buenos Aires.
This is a photo of her studio that El Azem took and posted on Wikimedia:
The colored squares piece is a good representation of one facet of her work. The striped forms that look like buildings are current work. This looks like a photo of her inspiration wall. Many visual artists have a place in their studio where they put shapes, drawings, and patterns that they like, that they are turning over in their minds. Note the Egyptian mother-of-pearl mosaic on the far right side that most likely came from her trip to Egypt to attend an art workshop there.
I find much of El Azem’s work aesthetically beautiful. I like how she uses beading traditions in many of her pieces; making shapes with beads, scanning them in, arranging them and printing them out. What I find most exciting is her form of social protest art. She uses bullet and shell casings to make patterns that recreate photographs. El Azem has a series about the Islas Malvinas/Falklands War using bullets that is powerful. The Islas Malvinas War is a divisive issue in Argentina. The island has two names, one from the British and the other from the Argentines. In 1982, Argentina tried to assert a claim for this island off their shores, British troops took it back a few months later. You may see images of this series on her website. The third painting of the third row is on this topic.
I was happy to see Karina El Azem has a good web presence. However, as I looked through the catalogues of major museums in the US to looks for El Azem’s and other Latin American Women Artists’ work, I found very little. What I saw was that Latin American men were represented about six to eight times more frequently than women. I noticed that women painters, sculptors and graphic artists were included less often than women photographers.
Perhaps that will change with time, thanks to Karina El Azem and other important Latin American women artists. ¡Olé!