Bringing together works on paper and canvas from the past five decades—as well as caftans, mannequins, sculptures, and notebooks on and in which she wielded her pen—the exhibition will show how Caland used the candidness and mutability of the medium of drawing to challenge taboos associated with the representation of female sexuality.
In the late 1960s, at the age of 39, Huguette Caland (b. Beirut, Lebanon, 1931; d. 2019) left her husband and children in Beirut and relocated to Paris to pursue a career as an artist. Because of her early paintings on the subject of human sexuality, Caland briefly came to international prominence in the 1970s; yet, it is the explicit manner in which she expresses sensuality through drawing that has precipitated her recent resurfacing. Caland’s pencil and colored-pencil drawings from the 1970s and 1980s at first appear empty or abstract, but closer observation of the artist’s deliberate lines reveals intertwined body parts, tender images of caressing lovers, and carnivalesque portraits of topsy-turvy figures. Often, Caland uses a single line to convey a body part or intimate gesture, and incorporates the white of the page as a part of the drawing process. Extending her drawing practice to fashion in the early 1970s, Caland created a series of one hundred kaftans and embroidered many of these with schematic images of breasts and female genitalia. The tension between the nakedness of the human body and the fabrics that conceal it became a central theme in Caland’s drawing practice beginning in the early 1990s, where it was reflected both in the artist’s delicately cross-hatched ink drawings that resemble woven textiles and in a series of nude mannequins embellished with these same designs. Even in her later, more abstracted drawings, the vitality of the human body and the human spirit remains palpable as fragments of figures and geographical elements from her past and present surface amidst brightly-colored drawn and patterned landscapes.