During a career that lasted just over a decade, Nicolas Moufarrege (1947-1985) created an original and idiosyncratic body of embroidered paintings. Nicolas Moufarrege: Recognize My Sign—the artist’s first solo museum exhibition—traces the development of his work from the lap-scaled portrait-tapestries he produced in Beirut, Lebanon in the early-1970s to the final works he created in New York City, New York in 1985.
A dedicated appropriator, Moufarrege culled images from a broad and vast sourcebook; his embroidered paintings mix references from Classical sculptures and Baroque paintings with comic book heroes, Islamic tilework designs, Pop Art, and Arabic calligraphy. He borrowed images from paintings and prints by artists such as Katsushika Hokusai, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, and especially Roy Lichtenstein. If appropriation provided the artist with raw subject matter, it is his pointed juxtapositions of images that most clearly reveal Moufarrege’s wit and thoughtful intelligence: his stitched paintings tell stories.
Including nearly 40 tapestries and canvases, as well as drawings, photographs, and primary documents, Nicolas Moufarrege: Recognize My Sign follows the artist’s relocations from Beirut to Paris to New York, and considers the effects these moves had on the development of his oeuvre. Transitions from tapestries to paintings are paralleled by growth in scale and ambition, and we see the testing of intimate narratives. These stories, developed and confident, speak volumes about the artist’s experiences, his thoughts, humor, and fantasies.
Nicolas Moufarrege’s artwork draws from personal experience—including references to his travels and migrations, and his identity as a gay man—but it exceeds these individual boundaries. In doing so, it offers a myriad of ways to approach contemporary painting, figuration, craft, transnational identity, desire, and queer life.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.