Public Art Fund Presents Farah Al Qasimi’s Back and Forth Disco

Back and Forth Disco Photo By Gail Worley
Bodega Chandelier, Manhattan Location on Avenue A Between 5th and 6th Streets (Photos By Gail)

If you’re a NYC resident who likes to ‘get your steps in’ by exploring neighborhoods both new and familiar, here’s a Street Art Safari that you can participate in whether you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens! Back and Forth Disco is an exhibition of newly-commissioned photographs by Farah Al Qasimi (b. 1991 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) that celebrate individuality and the aesthetic choices that make spaces and surroundings uniquely personal.

Grace Beauty Salon Photo By Gail Worley
Grace Beauty Salon, Ave C between E 5th St and E 6th St, Manhattan

The 17 photographs in this new body of work isolate and highlight the beauty of seemingly inconspicuous moments amidst New York City’s visual and audible noise. Presented on 100 bus shelters across the five boroughs, the larger than life photographs are inserted into the paths of New York City commuters at eye level. Works are sited in clusters in over 18 neighborhoods to give the public an opportunity to see multiple photographs within walking or bus route distance. The bus shelters — platforms traditionally used for advertising — bring together images of people, street scenes, interiors, and surfaces to explore the experience of being an individual in a hyper-stimulating city.

Ceiling Mirror
Ceiling Mirror, Grand St between Pitt St and Ridge St, Manhattan

The artist has developed a photographic style that reads distinctly as her own, yet is continuously evolving. Over a month-long period in fall 2019, for the first time, Al Qasimi took New York City as her subject, primarily focusing on local communities where small businesses thrive. She has photographed neighborhood stores, barbershops, streets, and homes from Astoria, Queens to Chinatown, Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Drawn to the idea of visual excess, rich textures, and brightly saturated colors—familiar to her from growing up in the Emirates — Al Qasimi captures vibrant instances of self-expression. The works highlight individual style and cultural traditions that break through the chaos and anonymity of the city.

Back and Forth Disco Photo By Gail Worley
Bodega Chandelier, Detail

Central to Bodega Chandelier is an elaborate crystal light fixture that dominates the ceiling of a Yemeni-owned bodega in Ridgewood, Queens, dwarfing the products on display. In Parked Car, garlands of artificial flowers from an Indian wedding decorate a polished gray car in Al Qasimi’s neighborhood.

Parked Car
Parked Car, Delancey St between Lewis St and Columbia St, Manhattan

Al Qasimi’s portraiture challenges traditional ideas associated with figuration by utilizing elements of camouflage, concealment, and revelation. Her process is both spontaneous and deliberate. She photographs friends and strangers alike, often returning to familiar places repeatedly or recreating moments she has seen in public space in more controlled environments. Her enigmatic portraits demonstrate her approach to the genre: the faces of her subjects are partially obstructed or altogether absent, while their vitality is instead accentuated through garments, hairstyles, and poses.

Woman in Leopard Print By Gail Worley
Woman in Leopard Print, Ave C between E 5th St and E 6th St, Manhattan

In Woman in Leopard Print, a single eye is revealed through a reflection in a compact mirror as the woman in a leopard-print headscarf studies herself. In Coco, a cockatoo who resides at a curtain store in Ridgewood, Queens is paid a visit by regulars in the neighborhood. A young boy looks at the bird but his eyes are hidden by his mother’s extended arm, allowing other features — such as the woman’s bright red nails — to become the focal point.

Bakery Window
Bakery Window, Grand St between Jackson St and Columbia St, Manhattan

The photographs in Back and Forth Disco aim to draw out expressive details that spark recognition within communities. Acts of adornment, both to oneself and to the city, highlight the idiosyncrasies and beauty in environments that are often overlooked.

Bleached Sign By Gail Worley
Bleached Sign, Grand St between Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive and Lewis St, Manhattan

Back And Forth Disco Is On View Through May 17th, 2020. Visit This Link For a Map of All Locations.

Woman on Phone By Gail Worley
Woman on Phone, E Houston between 2nd Ave and Bowery, Manhattan

Dollar Store Photo By Gail Worley

Dollar Story (Flipside of  Grace Beauty Salon), Ave C between E 5th St and E 6th St, Manhattan

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