Huguette Caland’s life and work have often been described as unconventional. Born in 1931 in Beirut, she was the only daughter of the first president of the Republic of Lebanon,
Huguette Caland’s life and work have often been described as unconventional. Born in 1931 in Beirut, she was the only daughter of the first president of the Republic of Lebanon, Bechara El-Khoury. Shortly after her father’s death in 1964, she enrolled in the Fine Arts programme at the American University of Beirut where
she studied painting and drawing. In 1970, she abruptly left her family in Beirut and moved to Paris, where she, tired of being the daughter of, the wife of, the mother of, built her own identity and began exploring themes of sexuality and desire in her work. In 1987, Caland relocated to Venice, California, USA, where she built a home and her studio. The artist lived alternatingly between there and Beirut until her recent death at the age of 88 in 2019.
Tête-à-Tête presents how Caland challenged traditional representations of sexuality, the body and desire, transgressing inhibitions and conventions, drawing ideas from (and talking back to) Surrealist body scapes (body as a landscape and vice versa), Pop libidinal icons as well as orientalist sensuality or abstract patterns drawn from traditional weaving. Across diverse work groups, it is through the sensuous line that one observes the themes of mutability, sensuality, and the basic human desire for intimate connection that motivated Caland in her work and life. Participating in the vein of 60s liberation and disinhibition, Caland developed a mesmerising and highly singular aesthetic language, confirming her work as a keystone of middle-eastern modernism.
The exhibition offers a survey of Huguette Caland’s unconventional and exuberant perspective on life and art. It celebrates how the artist challenged traditional representations of sexuality, the body, and desire, transgressing inhibitions and conventions.
Curated by Claire Gilman, Chief Curator, with Isabella Kapur, Curatorial Associate, The Drawing Center, NYC. Coordination at WIELS by Devrim Bayar, curator WIELS.
The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of activities, including guided tours with Brigitte Caland (25_02) and Samah Hijawi (16_03), lectures (‘Kunst of pornografie’ by Petra Van Brabandt and Hans Maes on 20.03), workshops and more. More information at WIELS.ORG
Courtesy of WIELS
Feature caption: Huguette Caland, Bribes de corps, 1973. Oil on linen, 49 x 35 cm. Private collection