Even in the bubbles melting pot that constituted the East Village art arena of the aboriginal 1980s, Nicolas Moufarrege stood out. Broodingly handsome, he was built-in in 1947 in Alexandria, Egypt, to Lebanese Christian parents, and lived in Beirut and Paris afore affective to New York in 1981.
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More aberrant than his accomplishments was his art form: embroidery. Although bed-making had been adopted by some feminist artists, it was an abnormal macho pursuit. As a gay man who aboveboard accepted his animal identity, Moufarrege appropriately took up adornment afterwards advertent its potential, he said, back acclimation an old brace of jeans. He stitched his own application because he couldn’t acquisition one that met his standards.
Moufarrege was in the beat in a sadder way, too. Among a close accumulation of East Village artists (including Peter Hujar, David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong and Keith Haring), he was one of the aboriginal to accede to the AIDS catching that would annihilate the gay community. In 1985, a few months afterwards falling ill, he died at the age of 38.
For the accomplished few months, Moufarrege has been the accountable of a retrospective, “Nicolas Moufarrege: Recognize My Sign,” at the Queens Museum through Feb. 23 that abundantly rewards a visit. It was organized by Dean Daderko, a babysitter at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, area it was aboriginal seen, and accommodating at the Queens Museum by the babysitter Larissa Harris.
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In absolute this artist’s absorbing range, the exhibition progresses from the baby tapestries Moufarrege fabricated with a lap approach as a adolescent man in Beirut to the scroll-like accumbent panels of his final years in New York, which amalgamate Spider-Man, Santa Claus, and abstracts from Japanese prints and Picasso paintings.
He was a analyzer as able-bodied as an artist, able-bodied abreast in art history, as approved by one of the best mysteriously affective pieces in the show, “The Fifth Day” (1980). The appellation apparently alludes, in the Book of Genesis, to the day on which God abounding the sky with birds and the sea with fishes. A atramentous bird is aerial through a adumbration heaven that Moufarrege graced with beaming clouds, application silk, affection and absolute accoutrement to admirable effect. The bird is conceivably a phoenix, the accountable of an adornment that he produced bristles years earlier.
The account is belted on the appropriate and larboard by grids of atramentous squares, evocative of Ellsworth Kelly’s 1951 painting “Colors for a Large Wall.” At the basal larboard is an Islamic geometric architecture that Moufarrege categorical in atramentous cilia and decrepit cautiously with watered-down paint. A base at the top is enigmatically apparent with two numbers, “37” and “12.”
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What dominates the picture, though, is a nude macho figure, throwing a discus and beheld from behind. A atramentous snake, both erotically phallic and creepily sinister, is slithering through a aperture in the disc. A alpine beginning card is continuing arrect nearby.
The nude is appointed from the “Battle of Cascina,” a animation that Michelangelo fabricated for a painting, never completed, of naked Florentine soldiers afraid by their Pisan foes while bathing in a river. Michelangelo’s admiring delineation of the able-bodied bodies was broadly broadcast through engravings, including one by Marcantonio Raimondi, an angel Moufarrege owned. (It is included in the exhibition.)
But the ballsy nude in Moufarrege’s adornment is not beneath attack. He is throwing his discus over what appears to be a river of blood, against a blooming meadow and a dejected sky. The blood-soaked beck in the carpeting may accredit to the affray that collection Moufarrege’s ancestors from both Alexandria and Beirut, as the card and the asphalt arrangement would suggest. The archetype could betoken his rebirth. What he would not accept accepted back he stitched this arena is that abaft the eyes of the promised land, added tragedy awaited.
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Through Feb. 23 at the Queens Museum, Flushing Meadows Corona Park; 718 592 9700, queensmuseum.org.
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