November 15th, 2021

Etel Adnan, Untitled (2015), via White Cube

Artist Etel Adnan, the artist and writer whose colorful, minimalist landscapes and incisive writing about political conflict, trauma, and the Middle East made her a diverse and expressive voice in the Contemporary Arts landscape, has passed away at the age of 96. Adnan, raised in Lebanon but based in California for the past several decades, was an international literary figure, and a powerful fixture in the exploration and criticism of violence and war.

Born in Beirut in 1925, Adnan’s work was informed by the fraught contexts of the American post-war movement, and the challenges posed by Vietnam, which inspired her to branch out into writing and poetry, later exploring the wake of the Lebanese Civil War with her seminal book Sitt Marie Rose in 1975. During her time writing, Adnan would continue to paint, a practice developed during her time teaching at UC Berkeley, but it wasn’t until 2012, when a selection of her paintings were included in Documenta 13, that she would reach an international audience for her works.

Etel Adnan, Horizon 8 (2020), via Lévy Gorvy

Her paintings, featuring minimalist, expressive depictions of mountain ranges, the sun, and the landscapes of both California and Lebanon, draw from her time in the San Francisco mountains, a time that informed her work she described as that of “A Californian Artist.” “The colors I use, the brightness — they are the colors of California,” she said in a 2018 interview.

She is survived by her longtime partner Simone Fattal.

Read more:
Etel Adnan, Lebanese American Author and Artist, Dies at 96 [NYT]

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