Etel Adnan’s Vibrant, Visual Poems

“Colorists are epic poets,” said Charles Baudelaire, and here at the Serpentine Gallery we have both: a painter of abstract landscapes and a poet, not to mention activist, scribe, and filmmaker. Described as a polymath by Hans Ulrich Obrist inthe exhibition’s catalogue, Etel Adnan certainly seems to be a woman of many talents. Born in Beirut in 1925, she has lived and worked in Paris and California throughout her life. She is primarily known as a political writer, first prompted to activism by the Algerian war, then Vietnam, and more recently the many troubles of the Arab world. In the ‘60s she taught Philosophy of Art at the University of California and the story goes that it was not until a colleague asked why she did not make art herself that she picked up a palette knife and began scraping color onto canvas.

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