PULLMAN, Wash.– The Washington State University Museum of Art will exhibit two shows simultaneously, “Piranesi: The Grandeur of Ancient Rome” and “Afghanistan: Land of Light and Shadow,” March 9 through April 11.

The March 9 opening, in the Fine Arts Center on the Pullman campus, will include a 6:30 p.m. reception followed by a lecture by Rafi Samizay, the photographer responsible for “Afghanistan: Land of Light and Shadow.” Andrew Appleton, a WSU political science faculty member, will give a March 23 lecture on “Nation Building” at 7 p.m., and Bashir Kazimee, a faculty member in the WSU School of Architecture will wrap up the series with an April 6 lecture on “Afghan Architecture” at 7 p.m.

In an experimental collaboration between the School of Architecture and the WSU Museum of Art, students from professor Ayad Rahmani’s second-year studio class in architecture have designed and constructed an installation, which will feature the two exhibitions, combining art and architecture. 

“The installation will involve four components: “Piranesi: The Grandeur of Ancient Rome,” “Afghanistan: Land of Light and Shadow,” the School of Architecture’s “Analytical Models of Piranesi” and the overall exhibition design,” said Roger Rowley, curator and collections manager for the museum.

Rahmani has been a professor of architecture at WSU for seven years. He received a master’s degree from Washington University, St. Louis, in both English and architecture.  After meeting with Rowley, Rahmani had 16 of his students participate in a 7-8 week competition where groups of four students built models of the WSU Museum of Art, including their own design models for two free-standing walls loosely based on a Piranesi print. Eventually, four students were selected to construct the exhibition. They are Cody Dompier, Yun-Suk Choi, Tomohiro Inoue and Jillian Bartz. 

Rahmani says he loves the idea of interdisciplinary projects and hopes this collaboration will act as a springboard for future endeavors.  “Everything has been great — the museum and everyone involved have been terrific cheerleaders.”

 “This is a very special benchmark in the museum’s desire to engage the entire campus community and function as a center for multidisciplinary studies,” said Chris Bruce, director of the Museum of Art. “By working with the School of Architecture we are not only providing hands-on, real-world experience for students, but the museum itself has gained fresh perspectives on how we do things.”  Ultimately, Bruce believes the audience will benefit from viewing the 18th century Piranesi prints from the standpoint of 21st century architecture.

“Piranesi: The Grandeur of Ancient Rome” exhibits a collection of 52 prints by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), one of the masters of neoclassical etching.  The series illustrates various periods of Piranesi’s progress as an artist. According to Rowley, the grouping of prints includes “early views of Rome, later works in which single buildings loom dark against the sky and remarkable bird’s eye panoramas that Piranesi constructed by using notes made from his studies of ground-level perspective.”

Piranesi was both an artist and architect whose work extended the possibilities of etching beyond anything achieved by his contemporaries. He created more than 2,000 prints of real and imaginary buildings, statues and ornaments. His greatest contribution to 18th-century neoclassical etching was his amazing renderings of ancient Roman monuments.  These etchings include accurate portrayals of existing ruins and imaginary constructions based on ancient buildings, in which alterations of scale and the buildings elements enhance the sense of grandeur for the viewer.

“Afghanistan: Land of Light and Shadow” is a series of photographs by WSU Professor Rafi Samizay, selected Rowley.  Samizay began photographing Afghanistan in the 1970s when he was the chair of architecture at Kabul University. The images he took of Afghanistan in the 70’s are coupled with photographs taken during his return to Afghanistan 22 years later for reconstruction efforts. Post-war photos, containing images of Afghans using war debris (tanks, artillery shells, missiles, etc.) for reconstruction, weigh heavily on the viewers’ conscience. The destruction of a once-modern city, the struggles of a people to endure making the best of a bad situation, and efforts to re-build are all themes one might gather from the exhibit.

Samizay’s Western education and job as a professor made him a substantial target during the Soviet occupation of his country. He came to WSU in 1984, after his 1981 arrest, and served as the School of Architecture’s director for nine years.  Many of the pictures he took in Afghanistan were part of an exploration of traditional architecture for research and scholarship. Yet, many more were taken for the experience of the moment and the attraction of the subject matter. 

“Everyone here has a unique history and experience of the past three decades, and these histories are hidden in almost geological layers– the layer of the times of the king, the layer of the time of the republic and the different layers of the times of the communists and the different layers of the time of religious fundamentalists,” Samizay said.

For some, only certain layers jump out because of their particular experiences, whether pleasant or painful. This complexity has not only scarred the people but also the landscape.  He watches people desperately trying to heal the wounds but believes the scars will remain for years to come.  “Only another geological layer will cover it,” he said.

Originally, Samizay returned to Afghanistan to help with the higher education of young Afghans, and while he continues to do so, he has expanded into other areas. Recently, he has been designing buildings for the justice system. There is a great attempt to reform the justice system and bring back the rule of law into the country.  For that reason, Samizay has been designing courthouse buildings that are going to be built in different parts of the country. By working on these buildings, Samizay believes he is helping educate a group of young Afghans in architecture and learning professionalism.

Sponsors of the exhibits include the WSU School of Architecture, Pullman-Moscow Building Supply and the Visual, Performing and Literary Arts Committee.

Funding for the museum exhibitions and programs for the fiscal year is provided by WSU, the Friends of the Museum of Art, the WSU Foundation, the Nationa
l Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Arts Commission, Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Arts Endowment, the Museum of Art/WSU Directors Fund for Excellence and private donors.  Visit the WSU Museum of Art Web Site at www.wsu.edu.artmuse