This is the first large-scale institutional exhibition of work by the Lebanese writer, poet, and painter Etel Adnan, spanning six decades of her artistic practice. It is the thesis exhibition of the graduating students in the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice.
Born in Beirut in 1925 to a Christian Greek mother and a Muslim Syrian father, Adnan has spent her life between places -- Beirut, Paris, and the Bay Area -- negotiating their different cultures and language as well as her distinctive position among them.
This experience of displacement deeply informs her work, which similarly ranges between mediums and formats. Her recent exhibitions include dOCUMENTA (13) (Kassel, Germany, 2012) and the Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon (London, 2010).
The exhibition explores Adnan's complex negotiation between verbal and visual forms of expression. Some of the featured paintings include elements of geographical specificity, whereas others are more ambiguous depictions of "nonplaces." Adnan's leporellos, or folding books, offer a compelling fusion of written texts and painted or drawn images.
The exhibition also includes selected articles written by Adnan for the francophone daily newspaper Al-Safa as well as film and video works by Chris Marker, Rabih Mroué, and the Otolith Group that relate directly or obliquely to Adnan's practice.
Marker's eerie footage of sculptures at the fringe of San Francisco Bay; Mroué's conflations of destruction and construction, future and past in an unspecified city; and the Otolith Group's portrait of Adnan reading her own poetry in her Paris home all present a melancholic counterpoint to Adnan's work, deepening the exhibition’s logic of place and displacement.
See wattis.org for a schedule of accompanying public programs that include poetry readings, workshops, film screenings, and lectures.
Founding support for CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts programs has been provided by Phyllis C. Wattis and Judy & Bill Timken. Generous support provided by Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund and the CCA Curator's Forum.