Estefan on Zurayk and Rogers, ‘Afaf Zurayk: Return Journeys’ | AMCA | Association for Modern + Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran + Turkey

Estefan on Zurayk and Rogers, ‘Afaf Zurayk: Return Journeys’

Author: Afaf Zurayk, Sarah Rogers, ed.
Reviewer: Kareem Estefan

Afaf Zurayk, Sarah Rogers, ed. Afaf Zurayk: Return Journeys. Beirut: Twig Collaborative/Saleh Barakat Gallery, 2019. 96 pp.

Reviewed by Kareem Estefan (Brown University)
Published on H-AMCA (May, 2019)
Commissioned by Jessica Gerschultz (University of Kansas)


The Art of Receiving: Afaf Zurayk’s Return Journeys

An expansive yet intimate view of a singular artist whose career has yet to be sufficiently celebrated, the monograph Return Journeys documents four decades of paintings and poems by Afaf Zurayk, many of which were recently on view for the first major retrospective of the artist’s oeuvre in her hometown of Beirut (January 18-March 1, 2019). The exhibition at Saleh Barakat Gallery and its eponymous publication offer a welcome opportunity to appraise the work of an artist whose abstract paintings and multimedia works are remarkably subtle, as Zurayk frequently opts for a small scale, employs a minimal, earthy or black-and-white palette, and prioritizes explorations of light and line over recognizable subject matter. Zurayk’s work is unmistakably personal, probing the vulnerable depths and complexities of emotion, but it is not confessional. Rather than divulge details or depict discrete situations, she continually pivots around potent symbols and forms—keyholes, eyes, faces—to reveal a subjectivity that is porous to the world, shaped in precarious relation to others and to nature.

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