A Home in Ruin: The Work of Mohamad Hafez at the Lanoue Gallery

“We Have Won!” by Mohamad Hafez. (Credit: Maher Mahmoud, via The New Yorker)

Last Sunday, April 2nd, a solo show opened at the Lanoue Gallery, located not far from us on Harrison Ave. Featuring artwork by Syrian artist Mohamad Hafez, currently an architect in New Haven, Connecticut, the gallery is a window into a miniature world in ruin that reflects the modern-day destruction in Syria. “He wanted to make full, three-dimensional cities, and he wanted them to look real–gritty, rusted, lived-in, and partially destroyed,” describes writer Jake Halpern for The New Yorker. “Junk became his medium.” The concept took shape thirteen years ago in his college days at Iowa State University. Prevented by his visa from returning home, he took to rebuilding his city of Damascus in miniature. His first work was a recreation of a facade of an ancient wall that was pictured on a Syrian candy bar wrapper. Today, his constructions are far less idyllic than his early models.

Hafez tried to explain the turn his art had taken. How do you watch whats happening in Aleppo and not go nuts? he asked. How do you watch thousands of years bombed out of existence? How do you go on with your life, having your morning coffee, when a bunch of your relatives and friends are under constant bombing? How do you not snap and yell out? You have to remain composed and carry on with your day job, don’t you? He paused for a moment, as if lost in thought. Well, he said, finally, the way that I stayed composed is that I come here and I let the models do the yelling for me. In that sense, it relieves me. It is grim. And I take no pride in this work. I feel no ownership in it. Its as though I am 3-D printing whats inside of me.

These unpeopled cities, flickering with the lights of tiny lamps, chattering with sound recordings from happier times that emanate from hidden speakers, are just familiar enough to be recognizable as home. Hafez draws out in the viewer the same pangs of homesickness and of loss that he channels into his work. And in Core, we are no strangers to homesickness and loss; the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt and Odysseus’s twenty-year journey back to Ithaca come to mind, not to mention our own personal experiences here at BU.

Witness Mohamad Hafez’s take on displacement, home, and ruin in his solo gallery showHOMELAND inSECURITY at the Lanoue Gallery on 450 Harrison Ave #31, from April 2until the end of the month. Read the rest of The New Yorker article here.

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