Etel Adnan, “Danse Nocturne” (2019), tapestry (all images courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York)

Etel Adnan once described memory as a “sanctuary of infinite patience.” Looking at her new work, it’s easy to see why. More than six decades of traveling, writing, weaving, and painting have led the Lebanese-American poet, now 95, to abstract the landscapes of her life. Gentle hues and sparse linework become vast poetic meditations on the aging process in her latest exhibition of tapestries, rugs, paintings, and leporello books.

A sense of longing pervades Seasons, which opened at Galerie Lelong in Chelsea just as New York City reached peak autumn foliage. Adnan carefully translates her own paintings into knitted wool, bringing along each little imperfection. Large-scale tapestries like “Clairière” and “L’Olivier” (2019) still contain white spots between brightly toned brushstrokes, appearing like a faded photograph. In “Au matin” (2017), leaves lose their color before they’ve even fallen from trees.

Installation view of Etel Adnan: Seasons, Galerie Lelong & Co., October 2020

A set of small vertical paintings portrays a planet rising and setting across a neon horizon, but its alignment is out of order across the gallery wall. Time feels similarly abstract lately, and Adnan reminds us of its fleeting nature. Amid this year’s despair and uncertainty, however, she still shows that a little bit of color can make all the difference.

Etel Adnan: Seasons continues through December 19 at Galerie Lelong (528 West 26th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan). 

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Billie Anania

Billie Anania is an editor, critic, and journalist in New York City whose work focuses on political economy in the cultural industries and the history of art in global liberation movements.