Adel Abdessemed: His First Major Arab Museum of Modern Art Exhibition

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art is to present a landmark exhibition by Adel Abdessemed entitled L’âge d’or. Curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi, this exhibition will showcase recent works including drawings, paintings, sculptures and videos, many created by the artist especially for this show in Doha.
Working across a wide range of media, Abdessemed transforms well-known materials and imagery into charged artistic declarations. Abdessemed has described himself as “an artist of acts,” and his works are known for their forceful impact and symbolic resonance. Taking materials into great consideration, he is often provocative in their use; camel bones, gold, salt, brass, gum, and terracotta take on new and multiple meanings.

Mathaf’s Director, Abdellah Karroum, said “Adel Abdessemed’s exhibition is the first major curatorial project produced by Mathaf I will have the pleasure to open since my recent appointment as Director. L’âge d’or is undoubtedly a very challenging show in many ways, one that I hope will resonate with visitors from Qatar and around the world. Adel is an artist with whom I have worked extensively in the past. His work contributes substantially to the debate of ideas and leads the way in the movement towards new concepts in the art scene and the world at large.”

New works presented at Mathaf will include the eponymous L’âge d’or, a bas-relief work of gold-plated brass depicting the artist’s four young daughters, and Julie, a life-size sculpture of the artist’s wife made from both salt stone from Siwa and a rock local to the region of Qatar. A large-scale terracotta wall relief, entitled Shams and created in situ, depicts and explores the unseen workers of this world. Other new sculptures include Curiosity, a bas- relief in red terracotta, depicting NASA’s robot on the planet Mars; La Chine est proche, a bicycle fashioned from camel bone; and East of Eden, groupings of knives thrust into the ground.

In two new video works, Abdessemed employs the percussive and rhythmic device of a bare human foot repeatedly crushing objects, of high symbolic significance: a white rose (Ayaï) and a skull (Histoire de la folie). In another new video, Printemps, violence is explored as a line of chickens against a wall appear on fire.

The exhibition will also feature a selection of recent works, including Mémoire (2012), a video showing a baboon spelling out ‘Tutsi’ and ‘Hutu’, referring to the opposing ethnic groups in the 1994 Rwandan genocide; and State (2013), an animation depicting labyrinth-like drawings. Placed throughout the exhibition space will be Soldaten (2013), a series of large- scale charcoal drawings featuring soldiers in full gear who represent the continuous existence of war in our time.

The main atrium of the exhibition space will house Le Vase abominable (2013), a 51⁄2 meter sculpture, which consists of a tall brass pot positioned on top of an explosive device, a carefully crafted replica bomb. Little pot (2013) consists of eleven vessels each made from a different material, including gold, gum, and salt. Their repetitive yet incongruous appearance highlights a recurring dichotomy in the artist’s work between décor and fetish. Also on view will be the sculpture Practice ZERO TOLERANCE (2006), a black terracotta car, appearing as if upended by a riot.

Adel Abdessemed transforms well-known materials and imagery into unexpected and charged artistic declarations, working across a wide range of media, including drawing, video, photography, performance, and sculpture. Pulling freely from a myriad of sources—personal, historical, social, and political—his visual language is simultaneously rich and economical, sensitive and controversial, radical and mundane. His art addresses the underlying effects of globalized society on the individual, often using his own personal circumstances as a point of departure.

Born in 1971, Abdessemedstudied at the École des beaux-arts de Batna and the École des beaux-arts d’Alger, Algiers (1987-1994), before traveling to France where he attended the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon (1994-1998). He was an artist-in-residence at the Cité internationale des Arts de Paris in 1999-2000, and the following year at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center’s International Studio Program in Long Island City, New York. Now based in Paris and New York, the artist has also lived and worked in Berlin.

Adel Abdessemed

A limited edition bilingual Arabic-English three-volume exhibition catalogue designed by M/M Abdellah Taïa, in addition to an interview of Adel Abdessemed with Hans Ulrich Obrist, and numerous drawings and images, will be released by Mathaf and Silvana Editoriale publishing.
The exhibition at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art will be held from October, 6th to January 5th in the Atrium and ground floor of the museum.

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