Huguette Caland has become known as the one of the most influential Lebanese Contemporary feminist artists of her time, captivating everyone with her distinctive avant-garde style and outspoken character. Although she was born in 1931 in Beirut as the only daughter of the first President of the Republic of Lebanon Bechara El Khoury, Caland felt dismissed by many for being within such a political environment in such a privileged manner. Whilst also battling with her ever increasing weight, Caland used her art as a way of cementing her presence within the patriarchal society that dominated Lebanon in the 1960s and 1970s. She began painting at the age of 16 under the private tutelage of Fernando Manetti, an Italian artist who resided in Lebanon and then pursued her studies at the American University of Beirut with the likes of Aref El-Rayess, Helen Khal, Shafic Abboud, Janine Rubeiz and many others. Developing her own fiercely individual aesthetic approach, by the mid-70s she had already become known for her frank and tender exploration of nudity in her Bribes de Corps series. Moving suddenly in 1970 to Paris, leaving behind her children and husband, it was her discovery of Los Angeles in 1987 where she established herself in Venice and moved away from anatomy and portraiture into more abstract works.
Whilst examining Caland’s oeuvre it becomes abundantly clear that it is impossible to disassociate her painting from her feelings for persons, in this sense all are images, past and present, collected in the abundant album of experience that has consistently shaped the content of Caland’s art. Christie’s is delighted to be offering two works that are portraits of Ed Moses showing insight into the Caland’s tight-knit relationships within a group of close Venice-based artists. Ed Moses is one of the leading artists in Los Angeles group, along with fellow prominent figures such as Wallace Berman, Billy Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, John Altoon, Larry Bell and Ed Ruscha. Caland first saw Moses at one of his Paris shows; although the two didn’t meet, Moses became an almost obsessive subject for Caland’s art. Once she moved to Los Angeles, she began filling her Venice home with abstract likenesses of Moses. In due course, the two artists met, inaugurating a prickly friendship that continues strongly today.
The first of these portraits depict, in an overwhelming and overpowering yellow, thick with textured impasto a full-length portray of the artist. Impressive in size, with her use of blurry facial features, Caland gives a visual interpretation of Moses’ character whilst simultaneously paying homage to his own visual technique. Still retaining a whimsical and playful yet impulsive tone, Caland manages to merge her infamous series of the 1960s and 1970s with a new found inspiration in American Art.
Likewise, in the second work, a triptych of three faces that employ a black and white palette, interspersed with sporadic and vivid passages of colour, Caland begins to develop her signature style that dominate her quirky set of portraits and eventually her tapestries. More abstract in nature, the expressive brushstrokes tell of a tumultuous and passionate character, a buildup of texture reflecting upon layers of memories and precious moments that are poignant and dazzle the viewer. In each of her compositions, there is a deep-rooted sense of resilience, freedom and lust for life that radiates with charm, luminosity and rich sophistication, making Caland the celebrated artist that she is today.