Face Value: Portraiture (A Gallerist’s Personal Collection)
Text by Natasha Gasparian
This exhibition brings together around 100 portraits from the Saleh Barakat Gallery collection, and covers artworks from the early twentieth century to the present day. It takes as its starting point portraits of the early twentieth century from the Middle East, which functioned as idealized representations of the bourgeois subject. Organized thematically, the exhibition then turns to portraiture’s later reappropriation by an array of modern and contemporary artists. The broad categories under which these portraits are organized are portrait de genres, or portraits of social types, such as the Bedouin; self-portraits, portraits of other artists, friends, and lovers; portraits of politicians; political portraits; and portraits of the disenfranchised. Placing emphasis on the treatment of the subject in the work, this exhibition juxtaposes a large selection of artworks which together raise questions on the politics of representation, as well as ask what kind of subjectivity can we speak of in our postmodern condition.
Including the work of Assadour, Toufic Abdul-Al, Clara Abi Nader, Yvette Achkar, Sabhan Adam, Farid Aouad, Rima Amyuni, Abdelhamid Baalbaki, Ayman Baalbaki, Oussama Baalbaki, Said Baalbaki, Ginane Makki Bacho, Serwan Baran, Alfred Basbous, Michel Basbous, Huguette Caland, Radwan Chahal, Charles Chahwan, Rafic Charaf, Chaza Charafeddine, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Tagreed Dargouth, Saliba Douaihy, Hala Ezzeddine, Omar Fakhoury, Waddah Faris, Mustafa Farroukh, Cesar Gemayel, Khalil Ghorayeb, Paul Guiragossian, Farid Haddad, Marie Haddad, Mustafa AL-Hallaj, Halim El-Hajj, Nazir Ismail, Nazem al-Jaafari, Aram Jughian, Burhan Karkoutly, Abdulrahman Katanani, Helen Khal, Sacha Abou Khalil, Omar Khouri, Azouaoui Mammeri, Seta Manoukian, Marwan, Samar Mogharbel, Fateh Moudarres, Philippe Mourani, Nabil Nahas, Mohammad El Rawas, Aref Rayess, Nadia Safieddine, Khalil Saleeby, Salah Saouli, Mona Saudi, Houmam Sayed, Habib Srour, Hady Sy, Mustapha Tannir, Katya Traboulsi, Rachid Wehbe, Vera Yeramian, Khalil Zgheib.
19 January - 26 February, 2018
9 January-3 February, 2018
Text by Natasha Gasparian
Sacha Abou Khalil has two strands of painting: hyperrealist portraits of individuals or families which he produces by commission, and expressionist portraits drawn from the fictive worlds of canonical novels such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, and Yasunari Kawabata’s The House of Sleeping Beauties. For the former, Abou Khalil maintains the necessary distance to portray a world he is observing and staging in the genre of portraiture. For the latter, he employs himself, family members, and recognizable actors for models. By turning himself and them into the protagonists, he unambiguously inscribes a personal, as well as local, relevance to these texts.
Whereas 19th century realism sought to represent a truthful and objective reality through narrative content and scenes of everyday life, hyperrealism, which emerged out of pop art, shifted the emphasis away from pictorial details to the overall effect of the gleaming surface. Relying on the density of visual information packed in a photographic image, Abou Khalil’s hyperrealist portraits are voided of narrative content. The image, however, never eludes signification, which is coded in the posture, clothing, and facial expressions
of the painting’s subjects. Rendered in the durable medium of painting, the portrait is intended to survive them in the memory of their successors.
Similarly, the narrative content of the selected literary texts is dissolved in Abou Khalil’s expressionist portraits. What prevails is the artist’s projection of a single fantastical moment in each of these stories. While the selection of works is disparate, Abou Khalil interprets them as existentialist reflections on youth, beauty, sexuality, death, and most potently, freedom. It is no surprise that unlike his more formal hyperrealist paintings, the protagonists are repeatedly depicted barefoot, and in the case of his son (the signifier of Abou Khalil’s own youth) is bare-chested. This series of works expresses the desire to exceed the boundaries imposed by society.
Sacha Abou Khalil was born in Serbia in 1964 and raised in Mount Lebanon. He received his Baccalaureate in Lebanon in 1982, and entered the Strasbourg School of Medicine in 1983. He graduated in 1990 as a state doctor in dental surgery, and until 2011 ran his own private practice in France. In 2011, he quit dentistry. He now lives between Italy and Lebanon as a self-taught painter.