December 03, 2015
March 27, 2016
Honolulu Museum of Art
Beyond the Archive: Paintings by Reem Bassous features new work by the Hawaiʿi-based artist that presents her interrogation of a post-Lebanese Civil War existence, where cultural erasure and assertions oscillate under prolonged political instability. As a survivor of the Lebanese Civil War (1975‒1990), Bassous unhinges the memories from her youth and explores the contemporary implications of historic unrest by situating her personal experience in a national trajectory.
Instead of recounting the past in archival detail, Bassous has re-conceptualized the human figure simultaneously as the personification of her generation and as her home city of Beirut, in an effort to describe the shared trauma of a locale and its inhabitants. Like the ghostly figures whose form and features dissolve in her work into the very material of which they are made, Beirut itself bears the scars of conflict, both ancient and recent, having been built and rebuilt over time—a history that informs the artist’s painting process.
Bassous renders the ways in which political crisis is internalized through the use of thick layers of acrylic that blur the distinction between interior and exterior settings; patches of sky and architectural motifs disrupt otherwise domestic environments. This new series echoes the disillusionment caused by recurrent upheaval, and it underscores the artist’s desire to interpret history as a way of stabilizing the present. In Beyond the Archive, Bassous confronts the impact of protracted sectarian strife upon the identity of person and place by shifting focus away from an isolated moment in the crisis toward the effects of long-term social conflict endured over many years.
Read a Q+A with Reem Bassous.