Critics’ Picks

Taysir Batniji, Black Arab, 2017, video, color, sound, 6 minutes 7 seconds.

Taysir Batniji, Black Arab, 2017, video, color, sound, 6 minutes 7 seconds.

New York

Taysir Batniji

548 West 28th Street 4TH FLOOR
March 15–May 10, 2018

The Gaza-born, Paris-based artist Taysir Batniji has made so many orderly sculptures and austere installations—all of them clever and conceptual, with emotionally charged references to art history and the Palestinian condition—that one can easily forget that the foundation for all of his work is and always has been photography. This exhibition, titled “Home Away from Home,” is both dense and expansive, with more than a hundred artworks, the majority of them photographs. These color images include portraits, landscapes, and the kind of accidental or abandoned still lifes that are Batniji’s forte—capturing objects that seem freighted with meaning, such as the teapot and teacup in Home of Ahmed Batniji, West Palm Beach, Florida, 2018, or the jacket draped on a dining-room chair in Home of Dr. Sobhi and Khadra Batniji, Laguna Niguel, California, 2018. The photographs are arranged in several clusters supported by videos, drawings, and a family tree so wonderfully complicated that it covers an entire wall.

Batniji grew up in a place torn by its openness to the sea and the intractable confinement of the occupation. He left at nineteen. After a year in Italy, he moved to France. All of his work deals, in one way or another, with exile. But until now, he has clung to a certain Mediterranean melancholy, heavy with the symbolism of keys, maps, and land deeds, the accouterments of dispossession. Here, Batniji takes a wild leap into the land of his American cousins, where all of the certainties of Palestinian identity are thrown into brilliant but troubling disarray. The artist’s young cousin Safa cuts through the upheaval in a short video interview, Black Arab, 2017. Her anger about racism in the Arab world and class warfare in the United States smolders just beneath the surface, ready to burn it down.