C California Style

JWAN YOSEF’s Hafez, 2018. Photography courtesy of the artist and Praz-Delavallade, Los Angeles, Paris.

Making History

by C California Style

Jwan Yosef’s disruptive imagery at Praz-Delavallade

JWAN YOSEF. Photography courtesy of the artist and Praz-Delavallade, Los Angeles, Paris.

There’s a commonality to conceptual artist Jwan Yosef’s new works—portraits depicting propaganda shots of Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad, glorified publicity stills of closeted actor Rock Hudson, and youthful images of the artist’s Kurdish Muslim father. “They emphasize rejection and disruption,” explains the 34-year-old Syrian-born, Stockholm-raised painter. Throughout his childhood, Yosef says, each figure played a pivotal role in forming his identity. Inside his Beverly Hills studio, steps from the midcentury house he shares with husband Ricky Martin and their twin boys, Yosef says his family’s departure from Syria, Hudson’s transcendence of his cinematic idol status to become the face of AIDS, and al-Assad’s power grab (and that of his son, Syria’s current leader, Bashar al-Assad) all profoundly impacted him. “They’re part of my search for heritage,” says the artist, whose rapid rise includes three international solo shows this fall, including an exhibition at Los Angeles gallery Praz-Delavallade. For years, Yosef avoided oil and canvas—the materials of the old masters—as precious, “heavy with art history,” too “holy” to use. Now that the artist, who earned his master’s in fine art from London’s Central Saint Martins, embraces the hallowed medium, he yanks the finished canvases from each handmade frame, effectively destroying what he painstakingly creates. “I still need to portray my rejection of the material,” he quips. Nov. 10-Jan. 12. “A Gathering of Eagles” at Praz-Delavallade, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 323-917-5044; praz-delavallade.com.