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Arabesque
by Rayyane Tabet

Jan 23–Apr 18, 2020
©Rayyane Tabet

In 2020, an improbable meeting takes place between a young American architect and an older French architectural historian over a century after they were both at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Julia Morgan (1872-1957) was the institution's first female architecture student, and went on to become a prolific representative of the American Arts and Crafts movement in her home state of California. At a time when Modernism was coming into favor, her design for the Hearst Castle at San Simeon was grand and complex, utilizing decorative elements and mixing many architectural styles.

Jules Bourgoin (1838-1908) was a Paris-born professor who spent much time traveling across the Middle East and North Africa. Bourgoin's trips were intricately documented, and his keen interest in architectural detail and ornamentation was made visible through elaborate drawings that were incorporated into publications such as Les Arts Arabes ("The Arab Arts") and Les Eléments de l'Art Arabe ("The Elements of Arab Art").

It remains unknown the impact that Bourgoin's work had on his students, and whether Morgan-who was a master in adopting different architectural styles-actually studied under him. Arabesque creates a space where the work of Morgan and Bourgoin is juxtaposed to reflect upon notions of appropriation and context. Anchoring his explorations around these two figures, Tabet presents a new body of work that sits between historical truths, chance encounters, and the migration of ideas.