The Many Contradictions of Mona Hatoum

Ms. Hatoum has a solo show of 110 works at the Pompidou, her biggest and most prominent exhibition yet. (It runs through Sept. 28 and travels to the Tate Modern in London in May 2016. A smaller, unrelated show opens at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston on Aug. 26.) The nonchronological display includes quietly disturbing installations featuring cages and grids, barbed wire, domestic objects, maps and strands of her hair. Her work is inspired by Minimalism, Surrealism and conceptual art. It occasionally also evokes her Palestinian roots, leading some to see Middle Eastern connections in everything she does, to her lingering displeasure.

One early work — on display here — is “Light Sentence” (1992), an enclosure of wire mesh lockers with a dangling light bulb that casts dizzying shadows. The piece is broadly meant to symbolize confinement and disorientation. Yet the artist (who has never lived in Israel or the Palestinian territories) said one viewer took it to represent a Palestinian refugee camp. “They come with this preconceived idea of where I come from,” Ms. Hatoum said, “and therefore what I’m putting in my work, and they tend to over-interpret the work in relation to my background.”


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