“We deal with a permanent voyage,” writes Etel Adnan, “the becoming of that which itself had become.” Adnan was first a poet, influenced by the turmoil of the Vietnam and Lebanese Civil Wars—as well the history and affect of the landscapes she experienced in her life and childhood. Her artworks do not explicitly reference those subjects of conflict and alienation—though they are informed by a similar sense of being in the world: the works of the large gallery of “Seasons,” Adnan’s second solo show at Galerie Lelong, are made of wool, a medium which recalls the Persian rugs of her childhood.
Adnan regards herself to be a California artist, her works representing something if not necessarily seen, then felt: the atmosphere, the sea, the earth. Clairière (2019), the work that opens the show, is joyous, with intimations of trees rendered in saturated yellows, reds, and blues. The realization that what initially appears to be marker-on-paper is actually a tapestry—woven and not drawn—only delights further: even the feathery blur of a marker running out of ink is replicated in the gradient in cloth. In the next gallery, “Planètes,” a new body of intimate oil canvases, begun during quarantine, depict sundry objects or shapes—bicycles, apples, abstract clusters of etched strokes—underneath full round suns or moons. “Seasons” also presents a single leporello, an accordion-fold book, which unfolds like a pleated scroll. Entitled Signes (2015), or “signs,” it acts as a kind of catalog of marks. In its left-to-right movement of evolving strokes, it also suggests the passage of time—perhaps the harbinger of a new season.
Etel Adnan, Liberté, 2017-18. Wool tapestry, 55.5 x 79.5 inches.