MoMA PS1 presents the first solo museum exhibition in the United States of the work of Simone Fattal (Lebanese and American, b. 1942). This retrospective brings together over 200 works created over the last 50 years, featuring abstract and figurative ceramic sculptures, paintings, watercolors, and collages that draw from a range of sources including war narratives, landscape painting, ancient history, mythology, and Sufi poetry to explore the impact of displacement as well as the politics of archeology and excavation.
Simone Fattal: Works and Days explores the impact of displacement, as well as the politics of archeology and excavation, as these themes resonate across the artist’s multifaceted practice. Fattal’s work constructs a world that has emerged from history and memory, and its replications and repetitions grapple with the losses of time while revealing its reoccurrences. Never far from the earth, her works emerge as an unfinished project of telling the stories of ancient history with figures taken from central references such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, Dhat al-Himma, and others. Both timeless and specific, her work straddles the contemporary, the archaic, and the mythic.
The exhibition highlights the artist’s immense production over the last four decades. Nearly 200 sculptural works made of ceramic, stoneware, terracotta, bronze, and porcelain are displayed on architectural plinth structures that move through different themes within her oeuvre. In Fattal’s figurative sculptures, modest clay figures are rendered with just enough detail to be discernible as individuals, revealing a preoccupation with the persistence and fragility of the human form. The exhibition also includes sculptural representations of homes, bridges, and walls, as well as animals, trees, and other objects. Alongside these varied sculptural works, the exhibition also includes a grouping of Fattal’s early paintings, a later series of abstracted black and white paintings made in 2013, and a series of watercolors made in 2016, Suite en Jaune N°1, for which she dripped black ink onto paper and then painstakingly filled in the spaces around the black with bright-yellow paint.
Simone Fattal was born in Damascus, Syria, and raised in Lebanon, where she studied philosophy at the École des Lettres in Beirut. She then moved to Paris, where she continued her philosophical pursuits at the Sorbonne. In 1969 she returned to Beirut and began working as a visual artist, exhibiting her paintings locally until the start of the Lebanese Civil War. She fled Lebanon in 1980 and settled in California, where she founded the Post-Apollo Press, a publishing house dedicated to innovative and experimental literary work. In 1988 she enrolled in a course at the Art Institute of San Francisco, which prompted a return to her artistic practice and a newfound dedication to sculpture and ceramics. Fattal currently lives in Paris, and she has had recent exhibitions at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech (2018), the Rochechouart Departmental Museum of Contemporary Art (2017), and the Sharjah Art Foundation (2016).
Organized by Ruba Katrib, Curator, with Josephine Graf, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA PS1.