High Art From Men Of Letters

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Thick black lines wave and interlace, following the trail of a hand. Single letters or words, created with a swish of a house-painter's brush, become powerful abstract images. Even those of us who know not one letter of Arabic script can appreciate the way it has been transfigured or incorporated at "Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East," which runs at London's British Museum until Sept. 2. The show moves from sacred texts, through poetry and magic, to art that comments on current life in the Middle East.

Most of the material is from the museum's...