Nicolas Moufarrege’s Embroidered Paintings: 2. New York

From an exhibition at the Queens Museum, NY, 2019/2020, – Recognize My Sign – organized by the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX.

 

 

 

Nicolas Moufaregge, Lebanese born 1947 in Alexandria, Egypt and raised in Beirut, moved to New York in 1981 after six years living and working in Paris.

 

He died in New York four years later of AIDS-related complications at the age of 37.

 

 

 

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Title unknown (Empire), 1983, detail, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas.  Private collection on loan to the exhibition.

 

 

 

In the almost twelve years of his creative life, he developed a form of embroidered painting using a combination of thread and pigment.    

 

In New York, Nicolas Moufarrege moved away from classical European art and took to the the imagery of the popular culture and graffiti of the city’s diverse population and media.

 

In place of the heroic, questing figure in landscapes of majestic natural and man-made beauty,

 

 

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Banana Pudding, 1982, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas.  Private collection on loan to the exhibition.

 

 

the artist joined the buzzing art scene of the 1980’s when New York artists were abandoning conceptual rigour for  livelier expressions after the tumult of the movements for civil rights in late mid-century.

 

 

Joining other artists in the East Village, Nicolas Moufarrege both wrote about the art being made and curated art exhibitions.

 

That an artist for whom English was the third language made his voice heard within months of his arrival in the city speaks to the versatile, eclectic, questing quality of Nicolas Moufarrege’s intellect.

 

 

It speaks to the balance and ballast of his native cultures:

the deep ground of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquity and of the Abrahamic religious traditions

 

filtered, in his case,  both through the exacting aesthetic sensibility of the French civilization and through his homosexuality.

 

 

 

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 Title Unknown, 1983, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas.  Private loan to the exhibition

 

 

The artist himself had two exhibitions: 1983 and 1985.

 

Nicolas Moufarrege adapted the ancient scroll form into horizontal embroidered tapestries which can be read from left to right.  These are stories using the icons of popular culture.  They interact with his imagination.

 

These are very fine works indeed.

 

They are masterpieces of cross-cultural  exploration: open-minded, amused, amusing, and deadly serious.

 

 

 

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Installation view of some of the artist’s scroll-like embroidered paintings mounted at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston;  photo courtesy of the Museum

 

 

 

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Scroll embroidered paintings of unknown date and no title. The lower of the two is detailed immediately below.

 

 

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Details of a horizontal embroidered painting; title unknown, no date; thread, pigment,beads, adhesive, minerals and brooches on needlepoint canvas

 

 

 

 

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Horizontal embroidered painting, 1983.  The lower one is detailed below

 

 

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The thread-wielding Spiderman is thought to be an alter ego of the artist

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Details of Narcissix of One and Micks of the Other, c. 1983, thread and pigment, minerals on needlepoint canvas.  Estate of Nicholas Moufarrege

 

 

 

In another series of paintings, the artist imagined conversations between Roy Lichtenstein’s characters and the subjects and themes of paintings by others:

 

 

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Installation view of Nicolas Moufarrege’s New York embroidered paintings at the Queens Museum. Photo courtesy the Queens Museum.

 

 

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Title Unknown (I’d Rather Sink), 1984, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas. Estate of the artist

 

 

 

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Edward Brad Munch, 1984, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas

 

 

 

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Do It Yourself, Jeff, 1984, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas.  Estate of the artist

 

 

 

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Title Unknown, 1985, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas

 

 

 

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Title unknown (Look, Micky, I’ve Hooked a Big One), 1984, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas.  Estate of the artist

 

 

 

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Title Unknown, no date, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas

 

 

Nicolas Moufarrege, becoming sick with AIDS-related illnesses, died in June 1985.

 

The works which follow were among his last: small works which did not tax what strength remained to him.

 

 

 

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Title Unknown, 1985, thread on needlepoint canvas.

The care of a disappearing human head.

 

 

 

The artist paid homage to three art forms – literature, music and graffiti – using an identical format. 

 

This was a pre-printed French needlework kit of a famous painting; faux Egyptian wall fabric; and his own embroidered painting.

 

 

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Title unknown, 1985, thread, pre-printed needlepoint canvas, fabric and needlepoint on canvas (two pieces). Music.

 

 

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Title unknown, 1985, thread, pre-printed needlepoint canvas, fabric and needlepoint on canvas (two pieces). Literature.

 

 

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Title unknown, 1985, thread, pre-printed needlepoint canvas, fabric and needlepoint on canvas (two pieces).  Graffiti.

 

 

The artist had been at work in New York four years and for some portion of that was ill and weakening.

 

One can only imagine what he would have achieved, longer life granted. 

 

The artist died at a shameful red-hot fault-line: the neglect of the North American government of groups of people – continuing until this day – to suffering and early death for political-electoral and market-driven reasons.

 

 

I express gratitude to his family and friends and the museum professionals who have preserved Nicolas Moufaregge’s work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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