Walking into the new solo exhibition of Lebanese designer Najla El Zein at Friedman Benda, is like walking into a dream-like haven of sensuality, where you are surrounded by women dressed in white like Greek goddesses, using their own body to express their heroic sexuality. But when I walked into the show this morning, I was also thinking of the famed Parisian atelier of Constantin Brancusi, where sculptures are set in an order, and where the neutral palette allows peace and harmony. Materiality is important in El Zein work, whether it is concrete, sandstone, or travertine, utilized as tools in expressing her autobiographical narrative; the sculptures that tell this story are poetic and often functional: benches, stools, lounges, and lamps. The most powerful aspect of this exhibition, entitled 'Transition,' is the contradictions, which seem at time almost like conflicts. While the atmosphere looks quiet and meditative, the forms suggest tensed and intense situations: pregnancy, sexual relationships, body transformations, seduction, and displacement. These make you question, engaged, wonder, leaving the exhibition while thinking the narrative of the design. Thank you Carole Hochman for hosting; thank you, Najla for an illuminating talk and tour. Images courtesy of Najla El Zein and Friedman Benda; photography by Daniel Kukla. The exhibitions is open through April 13th.
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