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Etel Adnan

Etel Adnan, Five Senses for One Death, 1969. Ink and watercolor on paper. 11 × 255 in. (27.9 × 647.7 cm), Collection of the artist; courtesy Callicoon Fine Arts, New York, Photograph by Chris Austen

Etel Adnan, Five Senses for One Death, 1969. Ink and watercolor on paper. 11 × 255 in. (27.9 × 647.7 cm), Collection of the artist; courtesy Callicoon Fine Arts, New York, Photograph by Chris Austen

Born 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon
Lives and works in Sausalito, CA,
and Paris, France

Since the 1960s, Lebanese-born artist and writer Etel Adnan has been making accordion-fold books, or leporellos, that meld visual and verbal observation, fusing the artist’s parallel practices in painting and writing as she transcribes poems and records unfolding landscapes and urban spaces. These books exemplify the wide-ranging, nomadic character of Adnan’s life and work: best known as a poet, she studied philosophy in Paris and California after leaving Beirut, and has lived primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Paris for the past five decades. Her writing explores the political and personal dimensions of violence—particularly in response to Lebanon’s civil war—and articulates her experience of exile from familiar landscapes and languages.

While her vibrant, expressive paintings do not make explicit reference to political and social issues, they too reflect Adnan’s call for an intense engagement with the world. The rapid, thick strokes of her palette knife register scenes of personal importance, particularly Mount Tamalpais near her home in California, as well as the Mediterranean Sea; some are painted from memory. The landscape’s distinct forms—mountain, horizon, sea, sun—are knitted together, recording minute shifts of sensory experience and offering an empathetic response to the natural world in response to violence and indifference. Adnan’s 2014 Biennial installation also includes one of her tapestries, Champs de Petrol (“oilfields”); these works translate the vivid colors of her paintings into wool, a sensuous material that recalls the feel of the Persian rugs of the artist’s childhood.

Works by Etel Adnan

Etel Adnan, Five Senses for One Death, 1969. Ink and watercolor on paper. 11 × 255 in. (27.9 × 647.7 cm), Collection of the artist; courtesy Callicoon Fine Arts, New York, Photograph by Chris Austen
Etel Adnan, Champs de Petrol, 2013. Wool, 62 5/8 × 78 3/4 in. (159 × 200 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg
Etel Adnan, December From My Window, 1993. Ink and watercolor on paper. 7.5 × 100 in. (19.1 × 254 cm), Collection of the artist; courtesy Callicoon Fine Arts, New York, Photograph by Chris Austen
Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2013. Oil on canvas, 13 3/4 × 17 11/16 in. (35 × 45 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg
Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2013. Oil on canvas, 13 3/4 × 17 11/16 in. (35 × 45 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg
Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2013. Oil on canvas, 13 3/4 × 17 11/16 in. (35 × 45 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg
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