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“I’m really drawn to this idea of accents of beauty, almost transcendental moments of beauty that you stumble across by accident in this city,” says famed British artist Nathaniel Rackowe. From June 27 to August 25, he’ll reveal his newest pieces at the exhibition The Shape of a City, held at Letitia Art Gallery in Beirut, each of them inspired by the urban buzz of the Lebanese capital. In the spirit of his past works, Rackowe works with ‘city materials’, those which best represent the grind and simplicity of inner-city life.

Beauty can be found in every environment, even in the busiest of cities. Rackowe says, “Beirut, the city itself, has become the specific departure point for a new series of work. These sculptures and works on paper seek to explore the notion of a fleeting beauty that an urban environment can surprise us with, allowing me to combine a formal and spatial investigation with concepts of habitation, alienation, movement, and cognitive mapping.” Indeed, the installation inspires one to consider the beauty of city life. Light seeps from the pores of his work, reminding us that light can be found even in the darkness. In order to properly respect his environment, making it more positive and beautiful, Rackowe only utilizes locally sourced construction materials. The result is highly minimized structures that now gain a new meaning in the context of the open air.

The Letitia Art Gallery’s premiere highlights floor-based sculptural works made of corrugated roofing, galvanized steel, and illuminated cement blocks. The exhibition also features the Petrol Station Series, a collection of mixed-media works on paper. Rackowe’s artwork can be found beyond the Letitia Gallery as well. In the center of downtown Beirut, you can see the large-scale Black Shed Expanded, a new public-works project for Rackowe. He wanted to deconstruct the universally familiar shed into something unfamiliar to evoke the uncanny. By pulling the shed apart, flipping it upside down, and filling it with light, he transforms it into something entirely different.

Nevertheless, the highlight of the exhibition is certainly the cement block pieces. Neon yellow paint seeps out of the divide between blocks stacked against each other, illuminating the once dull cement. Rackowe succeeds in his mission to transform the mundane into something beautiful and noteworthy. So if you’re in Beirut or are planning to visit it, don’t miss the chance to enjoy one of the most prominent contemporary artist’s there is.
The Shape of A City, by Nathaniel Rackowe, will inaugurate on June 27 and will be on view until August 25 at Letitia Gallery, Tour de Saroula, Hamra, Beirut.

Mary Chamberlain Harlan 

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