FOCUS: Hrair Sarkissian

January 1, 2020 - March 3, 2020
Hrair Sarkissian,  Final Flight, 2018

Hrair Sarkissian
Final Flight, 2018
Mixed media
10 1/4 x 2 3/8 x 2 inches
Courtesy of the Artist

January 24, 2020 - March 15, 2020

Hrair Sarkissian’s debut solo exhibition in Texas features three major works that explore histories of erasure and how violence can be made invisible. In one of the artist’s most recent works, Final Flight, 2018–19, Sarkissian investigates the story of the endangered northern bald ibis, one of the rarest birds in the world and the living descendants of birds depicted in the oldest Egyptian hieroglyphs. Once thought extinct, a surviving colony of seven was discovered in 2002 in the Syrian Desert near Palmyra; however, the onset of the war in Syria in 2011 severely constrained the conservation program, and the birds disappeared again around the time Palmyra was destroyed in 2014. Sarkissian employed new technologies and age-old techniques to create sculptures of the birds’ skulls.

Sarkissian’s most iconic work, Execution Squares, 2008, features fourteen photographs of public squares where executions take place in three Syrian cities—Aleppo, Lattakia, and Damascus. These executions are public events, where people who pass by become witnesses—willingly or not—to the extinguishment of life.

The third work in the exhibition is the two-channel video Homesick, 2014. On one screen, a model of a four-story apartment building slowly but violently disintegrates. In the second channel of the video, the wreaker of this destruction is made visible: the artist himself. With sledgehammer in hand and his face a mixture of anger and desolation, he bashes the scale model of the Damascus apartment building where he lived until 2008 and where his parents continue to live; they have refused to leave Syria despite the unending violence. The model serves as a source of comfort and longing but also a prison of memories that have become ensnared in the extreme trauma of the present.

Hrair Sarkissian was born in Damascus and currently lives in London and The Hague. He earned a BFA in photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam, in 2010. Sarkissian’s work has been the subject of many solo exhibitions internationally at institutions including the Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Massachusetts; Sursock Museum, Beirut; KADIST, San Francisco; Fondazione Carispezia, La Spezia, Italy; SALT Beyoğlu, Istanbul; and the Museum of Photography Thessaloniki, Greece. He has exhibited widely in group shows at Tate Modern, London; New Museum, New York; Darat Al Funun, Amman; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Imperial War Museum, London; Sharjah Biennial; Istanbul Biennial; and Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, amongst others. Sarkissian won the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2013.

FOCUS: Hrair Sarkissian is organized by guest curator Dr. Omar Kholeif, Director of Collections and Senior Curator, Sharjah Art Foundation. The exhibition is presented in association with the Sharjah Art Foundation. 

The exhibition is presented in association with the Sharjah Art Foundation

Hrair Sarkissian
Final Flight, 2018
Mixed media
10 1/4 x 2 3/8 x 2 inches
Courtesy of the Artist