LALA Magazine

Winter 2017

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80 WE RARELY CONSIDER THE TOOLS WE use that separate us from much of the animal kingdom: a pen, a tube of paint, a rag, a piece of tape. These are the materials in an artist's studio upon from which an artist can articulate their wildest dreams. But what if the tables are turned, and the materials are treated as the subject? That is what Jwan Yosef is investigating in the studio he recently built behind his home in Beverly Hills, which he shares with his fiancé, pop superstar and art collector Ricky Martin (they met when Martin contacted Yosef about his work). Yosef's latest creation is a series of tape installations—cream- colored masking tape and silver duct tape clinging to the walls like DIY versions of John McCracken's leaning wall planks. And there's a painting of a piece of masking tape split in half on two sheets of plexi, valiantly failing at holding the sheets together in its representational state. "The masking tape painting plays with the whole notion of pretending to tape two pieces together, but because they're painted instead it's like a trompe-l'oeil," the Syrian-born, Stockholm-raised artist says of the series, which is appropriately titled Masking. "It gives the idea of function, but it's completely useless." For Yosef, the tape works came from a place of convenience, but ended up meaning many different things. It's a way, he says, that he likes to work—to act first, and consider the implications later. "I was always taping out paintings," says Yosef, who studied at London's Central Saint Martins. "So this was an immediate material that I would have around. I started with masking tape, and then I worked with silver tape, and immediately it becomes this fetish-like thing," noting that his work is often about sexuality. He continues, "All the work I do goes into my background as a Syrian-Swede, and having a Christian-Armenian mother and Muslim-Kurdish father. All this work relates to this idea of working toward a sense of belonging or not belonging." His upbringing is equally visible in another new series of work, called Object, that hangs in his studio—a portrait of his father is juxtaposed with separate paintings of mid-century film hunk Rock Hudson and Hafez al-Assad, Syria's president during Yosef's childhood (and father of current Syrian president Bashar al-Assad). Yosef then damages the paintings by pulling the canvases down the frame like he's undressing them. "There's no sense of glorification or idealization; it's more mapping out these images that have followed me since I was a kid not even knowing what they were," says Yosef. "They were just images I would see—everything as propaganda—and then Rock Hudson, for me, represents this super glamorous guy who died in this horrendous way of AIDS. And this fading beauty image of my father. It's trying to understand the correlation between these three men." After having spent the past seven years in London—and founding The Bomb Factory Art Foundation in the Archway neighborhood of the English capital with fellow artist Pallas Citroen—Yosef is relishing his time in the studio, working and figuring things out. He says he's not even thinking about where he will be showing these new works yet, and he's still getting used to the L.A. art world—and the weather, which he calls "heaven" compared the "Mordor" of Sweden and London. "I'm super fresh," he tells me, having moved here in January to live with Martin ."I haven't driven a car in my life—that's always a fun icebreaker!" ATTACHMENT THEORY Artist Jwan Yosef employs a humble adhesive to piece together a complicated personal history. BY MAXWELL WILLIAMS PORTRAIT BY TREVOR TONDRO PRODUCED BY MICHAEL  REYNOLDS

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