Commitment in the Artistic Practice of Aref El-Rayess

Commitment in the Artistic Practice of Aref El-Rayess

The Changing of Horses

By Natasha Gasparian

Anthem Impact

Anthem Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran and Turkey

In her study of Aref El-Rayess’s The 5th of June, or, The Changing of Horses, Natasha Gasparian reveals that the picture was presented and received, allegorically or metaphysically, as an idealized narrative of national liberation. By tracing the caesuras and slips in discourse, she reconstructs an alternative reading of the artwork’s uncanny yet historically determinate character.

Paperback, 78 Pages

ISBN:9781785274626

November 2020

£35.00, $59.95

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

In April 1968, ten months after the Arab defeat of the 1967 June War, Aref El-Rayess’s Dimaʾ wa Hurriyya (Blood and Freedom) opened to the public in the exhibition hall of the L’Orient newspaper headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. The 5th of June, or, The Changing of Horses, a realist mural painting on canvas, was the exhibition’s centerpiece. With this artwork, El-Rayess declared his commitment to national liberation and socialist revolution. The Changing of Horses was presented and received as an allegory of political commitment, but the slips, silences, and repetitions in the public reception point to its excessive, disturbing, and fundamentally uncanny character. In Commitment in the Artistic Practice of Aref El-Rayess, the first comprehensive study of the work, Natasha Gasparian weaves together a social art history from the artist’s writings, exhibition reviews, guestbook comments, personal correspondences and testimonies, as well as social, political, and aesthetic shifts, particularly as they related to the debates on commitment (iltizam) in the aftermath of the June 1967 war. By attempting to reconstruct this history of the artwork and tracing the caesuras in the discourse around it, Gasparian exposes the social antagonism that is repressed and obfuscated in the idealized narrative sustained by El-Rayess and his audiences. She argues that the oversight in the reception—the critics’ and audiences’ inability to see—attests to the delay in grasping the work historically and signals its avant-gardism.

Reviews

“Starting from the micro-context (Aref El-Rayess’ 1967 painting “The Changing of Horses”), Gasparian retraces the big picture, in an original and brilliant way, using the artist’s metaphoric work in order to illustrate the new intellectual context that the 1967 defeat created.” — Silvia Naef, Professor, Department of Mediterranean, Slavonic and Oriental Languages, University of Geneva

“Gasparian’s in-depth exploration of El-Rayess’s seminal painting “The Changing of Horses” is a brilliant study in the correlation between artistic practice and political engagement. It provides a distinct entry point into some lesser explored aspects of one of Lebanon's leading modernist artists, set against a comprehensive archival backdrop that weaves together cultural and political histories alike. A timely contribution to the literature on modernism and its various manifestations across the Arab World, and Lebanon in particular.” — Dr. Sam Bardaouil, Founder and Director at Art Reoriented, Munich and New York

Author Information

Natasha Gasparian is an art historian and critic. She has collaborated on writing, research, and curatorial projects with numerous institutions in Beirut, Lebanon, including Agial, Saleh Barakat Gallery, Beirut Art Center, and the Saradar Collection.

Series

Anthem Impact

Anthem Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran and Turkey

Table of Contents

List of Figures; Acknowledgments; Introduction; 1. The Exhibition; 2. The Artist; 3. The Reception; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography.

Links

No Podcasts for this title.

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