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Endless Night: Nabil Kanso

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Endless Night

Nabil Kanso

April 30th - August 24th 2024

IAIA is pleased to present Endless Night, the first institutional solo exhibition of Nabil Kanso (1940–2019) in New York. This exhibition unveils Kanso’s practice, which is deeply rooted in themes of war and human suffering. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Kanso grew up at a time when the geopolitical landscape of the region was being reshaped by the Arab-Israeli War. This exhibition explores Kanso's long standing devotion to protest art, by investigating the interwoven relationship between social injustice, myth, memory, and medium.


Coming from a region beset by war, Kanso found himself a foreigner in America during a tumultuous period in the country’s socio-cultural and political restructuring. In 1968, while completing his BA and MA at NYU, Kanso set up his studio in Manhattan amid a climate of unprecedented protest against America's military intervention in Vietnam. Kanso’s large, unstretched paintings bring to life a powerful and confrontational cluster of human-sized figures–leaping and floating–reaching outward to a world in a state of complete disintegration. He did not intend for his paintings to recount specific historical events, but rather to serve as a manifestation of emotions, and tragedies associated with global conflicts. His paintings unearth a unique visual iconography which weave together elements of neo-expressionism with mythological imagery, citing both contemporary and classical sources. 

In the early 1980s, Kanso created a series of 242 macabre tragicomedy ink drawings called Leaves from the Theater of War (1980-1992) that detail his personal account of the realities of war. On view for the first time since the series was created, these drawings were made after Kanso's visit to his homeland in 1982, at the height of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90), during which Israel's invasion saw the Siege of Beirut and the tragic Sabra and Shatila Massacre of August 1982, which killed thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese Shias.These dark-humored, sharp-edged drawings invoke Francisco Goya’s series The Disasters of War, while providing a more explicit reading of the role political elites play in inflicting systemic violence and societal division. Kanso’s drawings, like his paintings, are living testimonies that emphasize no matter how distant or foreign a conflict is, one cannot be fully removed from the consequences of war and its impact on the essence of our shared humanity. In his commitment to protest art, Nabil Kanso's work at its core reminds us that resistance is an emblem of unity and hope in the face of division, destruction, and terror.


Curated by: Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani

Nabil Kanso, Soaring Load, 1988, Oil on linen 86 x 119.5 | Image Courtesy Estate of Nabil Kanso.  

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