Lalla Essaydi

In “Harem,” this Moroccan-born, New York-based photographer’s most beautiful gallery exhibition to date, Essaydi continues to fearlessly take on Orientalist clichés. Her signature remains the sinuous lines of Islamic calligraphy, handwritten in henna, that cover flesh, fabric, and every visible surface in many of her photographs. The women in her pictures are both defined and confined by these streams of words. They’re also strikingly self-possessed, even when playing the languid odalisque. Essaydi keeps the strength of her subjects under wraps, portraying them swathed in patterned robes that mimic the mosaic tilework of the Moroccan palace settings—it’s that hidden power that gives her work its kick. Through Jan. 15.

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