The title — A yellow sun A green sun a yellow sun A red sun a blue sun — is borrowed from the opening line of one of Adnan’s best-known books, The Arab Apocalypse, which was published in French in 1980, before Adnan translated the work into English in 1989. Begun at the outset of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the epic poem is a disavowal of political, religious, and environmental violence. In it, the chaos and brutality of civil war exceed the written word — Adnan studded the work with hand-drawn symbols that interrupt sentences and float between lines. Where these small hieroglyphs overtake the text, language has opened up into possibility, though it also seems to have broken into incoherence.
Folding out to as long as fourteen feet in length, the leporellos (accordion-folded works on paper) in the exhibition show this fluid movement between writing and mark-making across their pages. Adnan merges multiple mediums and languages in these handmade books, filling some with poems and fragments copied in Arabic. In others, she covers the entire surface in continuous ink drawings, upending the linear structure of the book format.
On view now at MassMoCA, the exhibition is curated by Elise Chagas, M.A.’18.