Article 25

Something to Scream About

In Uncategorized on 11/08/2011 at 3:40 pm

Saad Ghosn’s artistic plea for justice

By Kathy Isabel Stockman

 

Saad Ghosn’s portfolio, “Scream,” quickly recalls the abstract text-based elements of Islamic art. The calligraphic design elements of each of his works hint at a language with which I am not familiar beyond form. Combining this abstract tradition with the black-and-white woodcuts used as a tool for social commentary by the Expressionists is truly a wonderfully perfect combination for Ghosn’s message.

Like the Expressionists, Ghosn taps into traditions in imagery to call attention to a social angst yet adhering to his desire for a world of justice and peace.

Ghosn is well-known for his work towards social justice. He is the founder of SOS Art, a yearly event that includes art exhibitions, readings, talks and performances expressing peace and justice. He also maintained a column, “Artists as Activists,” in the semi-monthly newspaper Streetvibes, in which he featured Greater Cincinnati artists who use their art as a vehicle for change.

As an artist, Ghosn creates a dialogue, inviting the viewer to recognize the need to work toward social justice. In these works that make up “Scream,” Ghosn specifically points to identity politics. Along with powerful language, the body is present as a target of injustice.

The show opens with “Scream,” a verse in a poetic spiral. Each line of the verse is the title of a woodcut in the exhibition. The spiral is a perfect image for this text as it evokes the dizzying logic of such displaced hatred toward the other, leading to injustice. The lines of the verse include “Scream of a Broken Dream,” “We Will Conquer,” “We Will Rule,” “Prisoners of Lies,” “Ode to Freedom” and “The Justice of the Strongest.” These titles make up a refrain familiar to the work toward social justice. Equally easy to understand is the woodcut imagery accompanying the text.

The female, black or foreign body is a repeated image in art of the other. As a native of Lebanon, the bearded face is a motif throughout the portfolio. While this might suggest a self-portrait, it definitively presents the American of Middle Eastern decent as the other. But as an advocate for social justice, Ghosn includes male and female nudes, recognizing a much larger oppression. “Scream” is not only about the artist’s frustration and the injustice directed toward him, but also recognizes a misappropriation of power that opposes all of the other. With the current marches on Wall Street and in cities throughout the country, Ghosn’s “Scream” seems to echo the country’s frustration. However, Ghosn’s “Corporations’ Thanksgiving Turkey” of 2008 precede today’s protesters.

Saad Ghosn chose “Scream” as a title for the portfolio because, he says, “I often feel like screaming loud to halt the violence, the lies, the derailing values. … I also want to scream loud in what I believe in, what I find wrong, what I think is preventing a better world.”

Like the Expressionist, Edvard Munch, Ghosn sees the scream and the emotive quality of form and contrast as methods for expressing intense emotion such as anger or frustration. But by incorporating the calligraphic forms found in Islamic art, Ghosn’s portfolio resists chaos for a more meditative repetition, thus maintaining his sincere plea for peace and justice.

 

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