’Tis the season of the collective exhibition. With so many Beirut- area galleries choosing to hold group shows during the city’s dog days of heat, humidity and political uncertainty, local culture vultures are afforded ample opportunity to dry out in air conditioned comfort while catching up with work they may have missed (or want to revisit) from solo shows earlier in the year.
So it is with Aida Cherfan Fine Arts Gallery, whose current group show, “Accrochage Collectif,” features work by such Lebanese artists as Hussein Madi, Patricia Barakat, Aida Halloum, along with international artists such as Jacqueline Jabre, Juan Jose Camacho and Puccio Pucci, to name a few.
The variety in this mixed-media exhibition , mingling abstract and surrealist paintings, sculptures and photographs, seeks to speak to art aficionados with a range of tastes.
“Accrochage Collectif” marks the return of French artist Jeanne Lorioz  to the gallery. “Face a Face,” held in February of this year, exposed the city to the artist’s amusing representations of the world in general, and of bulbous female bodies in particular. The chubby female forms that make up one of Lorioz’s primary leitmotifs are always depicted from the posterior angle.
In her “Le Couple” (The Couple, acrylic-on-wood panel, 33x24 cm), a barefoot couple with a beach bag stand, snuggling, as though gazing into the horizon. You must surmise exactly where they’re looking, because, though she carefully renders the shadows the figures would project, the background into which they gaze is rendered a uniform shade of gold.
Complementing the woman’s patented rotund posterior are the large red polka dots adorning her dress and sun hat. Her bald husband is wearing a red shirt with white polka dots. As if to underline Lorioz’s preference for the female form, the man is of relatively small stature and frail aspect next to the woman’s robust femininity.
Lorioz’s “La Robe Etroite” (The Tight Dress, 33x24 cm), a plump lady’s dress is so tight that she appears to have burst out of it, exposing her bare back and rear end to the onlooker.
The latent cultural critique in all Lorioz’s works is accentuated here. The artist’s vision of beauty is not ruled by the thin women who serve as the ideal type of the advertising industry and pop cultural generally. Here the figure’s compulsion to wear a “slenderizing” outfit exposes her vanity.
An intriguing feminine focus is also evident in the photography of Patricia Barakat. Her work “Queen Mum” (90x60 cm), depicts a woman in a richly elaborate black ball gown, sitting. Topping her regal air is a crown that resembles nothing so much as an inverted chandelier.
The lady’s eyes gaze obliquely to her left, as if averted from the stuffed lion cub that’s been placed before her to the right.
The straw stuffing appears to be coming out of the empty leather-backed chair along her. On the stool-like table before the chair is an unappetizing-looking something that resembles pasta in red sauce. It is an eerily surreal world Barakat imagines.
The media of choice of French artist Christoff Baron are wooden panels, which gives his work an antique, rough-hewn aspect. One of the artist’s goals is to link two opposite ideas.
Here, for example, he juxtaposes the coarseness of manufactured and industrial good (wood panels, say) with the cosmetic, decorative effects of paint.
His works at Aida Cherfan pursue a playing card motif. Among card-playing adepts, it seems, each of the four kings has its own name: David is the King of Spades; Caesar, Diamonds; Alexander, Clubs; Charles, Hearts.
“Charles” (mixed-media, 70x120 cm) represents Baron’s stern-faced and combative interpretation of the King of Hearts.
Another of Baron’s mixed-media work portrays “Rachel,” the Queen of Diamonds. Unlike the male sovereign, whose two mirror images share discreet differences of facial expression, the Queen’s uppermost face looks miserable. Rachel’s bottom visage, on the other hand, smiles delightedly.
Baron playing cards combine the formal representations associated with games of chance and risk-taking with sometimes startling representations of human emotion.
“Accrochage Collectif” is on display at Downtown’s Aida Cherfan Fine Art Gallery until Sept. 29. For more information, please call 01-983-111
Who's your favourite artist exhibiting at 'Accrochage Collectif'?