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Huguette Caland: Tête-à-Tête

Huguette Caland: Tête-à-Tête will be the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States. 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 delberate 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.

Organized by Claire Gilman, Chief Curator, with Isabella Kapur, Curatorial Assistant.


Huguette Caland: Tête-à-Tête is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Generous funding is provided by Étant donnés Contemporary Art, a program of the French American Cultural Exchange (FACE) Foundation. Étant donnés is developed in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, with lead funding from the Florence Gould Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Chanel USA, the ADAGP, the French Ministry of Culture, and Institut Français - Paris.

Additional support is provided by Zaza and Philippe Jabre, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Lisson Gallery, Sarah Peter, Tony Tamer, Saleh and Hala Barakat, Carla Chammas and Judi Roaman, Tammy and Georges Makhoul, and TOTAH NY.

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The Drawing Center is reopening October 7! Make a free, timed-entry reservation ahead of your visit.