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Michael Rakowitz, Backstroke of the West

Installation view at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2017

Photo by Nathan Keay, Courtesy of MCA Chicago

It seems almost inconceivable that Michael Rakowitz is only now receiving his first major museum show in the United States. Born in New York, based in Chicago, and obsessively drawn to the complexities of his own ancestry as the grandson of Iraqi Jews pushed out of Baghdad in the 1940s, Rakowitz has worked with remarkable clarity and consistency for more than twenty years. Named for a botched translation on a pirated Chinese copy of a Star Wars film, Backstroke of the West includes roughly a dozen projects dating from the late ’90s to the present, including drawings, sculptures, and documentation of Rakowitz’s many long-term projects marked by heartbreakingly beautiful gestures of replica and return. With a catalogue featuring texts by curator Omar Kholeif, writer Shumon Basar, and scholar Ella Shohat, the show offers a critical record of the artist’s compassion as he navigates across numerous lines of conflict.  

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