Etel Adnan’s Bittersweet Arrival at the Guggenheim

by AryanArtnews
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“I went to the moon … the planet Earth is old news,” Etel Adnan wrote in a 2011 essay, “The price of love we are not willing to pay.” “It’s the house we’re abandoning. We definitely don’t love her.” Adnan’s illusion of escaping the planet’s gravity now resonates with a special pre-surveillance vision. It is also the mourning of the violence we have given to the planet and ourselves, and the sadness of throwing away something so beautiful. It is the pain of movement that this artist and writer were intimately familiar with.

Born in Lebanon in 1925, Adnan spent much of his adulthood outside the country of birth. I studied philosophy in Paris. I started painting in Sausalito, California for decades at the age of 34. Paris where she died this month. Adnan abandoned her writing, ardent protests against the war in Vietnam and Lebanon, French colonial rule in Algeria, writing in French, and declared “painting in Arabic”. It was cherished in the struggle that expressed solidarity. The tranquility of her bright and sensual paintings is miraculous given the violence that has colored much of her world experience.

In the art world, she likes to wait for the recognition of female artists, especially late, when she was 86 years old, she gave a presentation at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany in 2012 with her visual arts. It attracted attention. To make up for the lost time, she frequently exhibits her work. Since the 1960s, the latest “Light’s New Measure”, an accordion booklet of Adnan’s paintings, tapestries and handwritten poems, has arrived at Guggenheim at a bittersweet timing. However, the phosphorescence of her work does not dim.

Adnan’s paintings are noteworthy in terms of how existential strength they can fit in a small field. (Most are not bigger than the cover of a magazine.) However, their formal economy is deeply focused, with a balance between figurative and abstraction, neither completely falling over. I have a vision. They oscillate between geometric shapes — patchwork of planes of tones surrounded by the earth, like the flat landscape seen overhead, West Coast abstract expressionists like Richard Diebenkorn. Favorite view of. Strongly pigmented celestial bodies — celestial bodies that float on the horizon like the sun, shining spheres, or benevolent gods in space. Adnan applied a thick coat of oil and rubbed it all over the canvas with a palette knife, leaving an accumulated surface like evidence of his own making. Her simple gestures, like children, can be read even crudely, but they represent a deeply felt, polyphonic cosmology.

Looking at Adnan’s paintings climbing the two rings at the bottom of Guggenheim can cause synesthesia attacks. Dissonant shapes merge in harmony, as if bleeding from the “Untitled” (1961/62) saxophone. This is a small combination of rectangles fixed on a chalky white background. The unstretched canvas will float off the lining. This spirituality is less in the biblical sense than in nature. Adnan’s paintings frequently depict the Mediterranean seen from Lebanon and later Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. It is depicted in an infinite permutation, as Monet returned to Rouen Cathedral. (She called it her best friend.) For Adnan, the mountains fused with her memory and enjoying the awe of nature was also a way of expressing her inner life. These are romantic ideas, probably outdated, but still powerful. “Some things aren’t meant to be clear. Ambiguity is their clarity,” Adnan said. “It has its own illuminations.”

“Light’s New Measure” contains some of Adnan’s tapestries that she began making in the 1960s. This is a modernist expression of the Persian carpet that was familiar to me when I was young. They are abundantly Fauvism, their larger scale allowed her to loosen in her form, and some of them dance freely in ample negative space. They are sensory collisions, and paint and fibers each give another texture. But the most mysterious works are the tightest. “Untitled” (1980s) is a canvas that is not as wide as a butter knife and contains half a dozen shades of blue. Deep ultramarine, dark gray blue, cobalt, and indigo stripes. It seems to have infinite depth, a exploding mass of sea that folds at a glance worth a lifetime.

The painting after her proves that she has not lost her power. In a series of three compact paintings from 2010, three bands of brilliant colors create the sky and the sea with incredible clarity. At the moment when it feels almost colorless, Adnan’s painting is a sesame oil that slips into the axis of light in a warm afternoon.

The rest of Guggenheim’s amphitheater is occupied by another show by Wassily Kandinsky, and the tendency to find harmony in each of these unique artists’ works is largely a suggestion of proximity, There is an echo: the variety of their forms, their lyricism, and their geometry and the convergence of nature, or, as Adnan said, “the racework of Russian grandmothers and biochemical culture is in color. It blends into a very personal image of moving around in the fluid created. “

The curator provides a more substantive tether by excerpting a review of Kandinsky’s 1963 Guggenheim exhibition that Adnan saw during his first trip to New York. Currently, Kandinsky’s 1926 “Some Circles” are displayed. This is a clean universe of orbiting, transparent disks floating in a black space. The circle was a number of symbols for both artists. When viewed together, the shape of Adnan begins to look like Kandinsky was distilled to its most essential state. Even if this isn’t straightforward, it’s influenced by the ability to stand in front of “several circles” and see what she did, as Adnan did nearly 60 years ago.

Adnan painted mountains until late last year, with a lot of abstraction in creamy pastel peaches, roses and rusty gold rhombuses. Although these places are real, they can’t be visited because they existed only in Adnan’s mind, but her paintings offer the exact same portal, with the potential of another world.

Etel Adnan: New Measures for Light

Until January 10, 2022, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue 1071 in Manhattan. 212-423 3500;

Wassily Kandinsky: Around the circle

Until September 5, 2022

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