Monday, July 6, 2020

Etel Adnan, Leporellos, Galerie Lelong & Co., January 23 - March 7, 2020, Paris.

This book about the leporellos of Etel Adnan (1925-2021), a Lebanese-born artist and writer, is a wonderful contribution to the minuscule literature on accordions and of artists' who work in this format. An opening essay by Adnan "The Unfolding of an Artists' Book," sets the scene of her first encounter with an artist working in this folding book form. She relates the story of her meeting in The Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco's North Beach, with a former sailor who had picked up a heroin habit as well as inkpot, brushes and scrolls, while in China. He would sit for long periods of time studying and drawing the people in the cafe in his folding (accordion) books. 

Adnan was struck by the format, especially when he gave her one he was working on, for her to finish. Since this time in the early 1960s, Adnan has continued to work with, and refine her use of this fascinating format.  As a former philosophy student and then professor, she also writes thoughtfully and eloquently about this format, as well as exploring all the ramifications of the very particular visual/literary dance that she sees taking place across the panorama of an accordion. 

The book also has really great illustrations of Adnan's works, and at the end there's a really interesting article (in French only) by Anne Moeglin-Delcroix "PLI SUR PLI: sur quelques leporellos d'artistes," which surveys important accordion books in addition to exploring different facets of the artists' accordion book. 

I've just come across a really interesting interview with Adnan from 2021 with her and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director at the Serpentine gallery in London, in which she says the following about creating her leporellos: "The leporello is a journey. When you start a leporello, it's like getting on a boat - you have a journey in front of you and that's what's beautiful. In the middle of a leporello you are afraid of making a mistake because you would have to throw everything awayl. You have to invest in the work and you have to keep a tension. It's like composing music, [maintaining] a rhythm - that's the work of a leporello, not to fall into a hole, to continue like when you are surfing, to hold the wave."

Here's a link to an obituary in the New York Times after Adnan's passing in 2021: Etel Adnan, Lebanese American Author and Artist, Dies at 96 - The New York Times

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