Adnan’s vivid, sensual paintings counter her fierce, polemical writings. “Along the way, it just so happened that my visual works were rather hedonistic,” she says. “Painting ended up reflecting the happy side of my nature, a deep-down optimism that keeps me alive and active.”
By contrast, Adnan’s writing engages with difficult subject matter. She has written texts on gender and feminism, and is recognized for her dispatches from the Lebanese Civil War, including the novel Sitt Marie-Rose (1978), based on the life of a woman kidnapped and murdered during the conflict.
Her poetry, meanwhile, continues to reflect on the political turbulence of the Arab world, and her latest volume Premonition (2014) is a fractious poem that muses on human unpredictability.
“While my paintings have not changed much along the years, my latest works of poetry are very consciously more philosophical,” Adnan says. “It is as if, before disappearing, I want to catch some truth, something crucial—some vision.”
For the African-American painter
, too, a sense of impermanence drives his work. “For anyone who turns 70 in the arts, it is always a question of mortality,” he says. “How many years do we have left? This forces you to get rid of all leftover, unnecessary elements and to deal with only that which is important.”
Moving to New York in the 1960s, Whitten was an active participant in the Civil Rights movement before he turned to painting, befriending the
. It was in the 1970s that Whitten made a name for himself, and he is one of the few African-American artists to be associated with mid-century abstraction.
He developed a technique of casting acrylic paint into tiles before applying them to the canvas, creating works that occupy an unusual position between painterly and plastic, abstract and concrete. As with Whitten’s ongoing “Black Monolith” series (1990–present), it is the titles that politicize the works, paying homage to black artists of the last century.
“Politics has always been a necessary irritant, like an itch that I have to scratch,” says Whitten.