Anila Quayyum Agha is a Pakistani-American artist, who is most known for creating intricate sculptures that balance light and shadow. The repetitive geometric and floral designs–known as Arabesque–are often at the root of Agha’s work and create a fully immersive experience within the gallery walls of museums and galleries. In Islamic culture, these interlocking patterns often mark a space of communal gathering or sacred space of deep contemplation. “The Weight of Black” features three installations throughout the galleries – “Itinerant Shadows,” a series of small cubes set on the wall, “Shimmering Mirage,” a three-foot cube suspended in air, and “This is NOT a Refuge,” an illuminated eight-foot house. While these installations are able to act as standalone objects, they simultaneously act as a cohesive grouping, where shadows and light merge together to allow visitors to move seamlessly through the galleries from one work to another.
Agha builds these spaces considering migration, loss (the loss of identity or the loss of home) and displacement. In particular, she is concerned with displacement “associated with people seeking refuge through immigration or re-settlement to the great global north.” Agha’s sculpture “This is NOT a Refuge” takes the shape of a home: a house or shelter open to all. But as we approach, the sculpture is both public and porous, offering no protection or privacy. As visitors traverse the galleries and navigate through beams of light, Agha asks viewers to consider who walks in the shadows “risking everything to find refuge?”.