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SFMOMA exhibition features the U.S. premiere of Runa Islam's "Cabinet of Prototypes"
Runa Islam, Cabinet of Prototypes, 2009–2010; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase, by exchange, through a fractional gift of Shirley Ross Davis and the Accessions Committee Fund; © Runa Islam; photo: White Cube (Ben Westoby).

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- This solo presentation of the Bangladeshborn British artist Runa Islam features the U.S. premiere of Cabinet of Prototypes (2009–10), a 16mm film installation from SFMOMA’s collection that serves as the exhibition’s point of departure for exploring the threshold between film and sculpture. Originally commissioned for the Kivik Art Centre in Österlen, Sweden, as a projected film for an architect’s pavilion set in the sculpture park’s grounds, the work was later reconfigured into a cinematic sculpture by enclosing both the projector and screen within a glass vitrine.

At SFMOMA, Cabinet of Prototypes is brought for the first time into conversation with a second film, Magical Consciousness (2010), both of which stemmed from Islam’s Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship and her time with the collections at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC. Cabinet of Prototypes studies the custom-designed armatures used to support and present Asian artifacts; a window into the SFMOMA Conservation Workroom from the gallery creates a conceptual and physical link between display and preservation. Through anamorphic black-andwhite 16mm film, Magical Consciousness (2010) transforms the gilded back of a six-panel 16thcentury Japanese folding screen into a meditation on the ‘silver screen’ of cinema.

“This exhibition foregrounds Runa Islam’s layered and inventive approaches to working with the physical elements behind the illusion of film,” said Tanya Zimbardo, exhibition curator and assistant curator of media arts at SFMOMA. “In her subject matter, Islam often gravitates to the overlooked or peripheral. Both films also gesture to the labor behind the objects presented.”

A third gallery of new and recent works includes several objects incorporating Islam’s ongoing process of reclaiming the silver from exposed celluloid. Anatomical Studies (2014) casts select items from the artist’s studio in the ‘latent’ silver, including the type of silver pencils employed in her drawing series, …laws of night and honey (2016). Together in Runa Islam: Verso, the selected works investigate material shifts through the lens of institutional collections and the artist’s personal archive.

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Runa Islam lives and works in London. She attended the Royal College of Art, London; the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam; and Middlesex University / Manchester Metropolitan University. Islam has been in numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide since the late 1990s.

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