Best known as the artist who braided three jet planes, Adel Abdessemed’s first solo exhibition in the newly opened David Zwirner, London gallery continues to breathe new life into well-worn narratives, in a show that confirms his reputation for visual showmanship, paired with a clear and succinct message.
The show opens with its title and the artist’s signature, itself now a signature of his work, scrawled and smudged directly onto the gallery wall. Right from the off Abdessemed is clear with his intent; this is his work and it is his hand that made it, with his fingerprint marking every work. Next to this, the show’s title work, Le Vase abominable seems all the more crafted and human, despite its readymade qualities and conceptual message. The work, a two-meter tall copper vase place on a replica explosive device, neatly juxtaposes two forms of craft, the destructive and creative, in a visually arresting whole. The adjoining room features five more vases, on a much reduced, everyday scale, each in a different medium and resting on a military tin. Ranging from the homely to the exquisite, war and culture sit happily hand in hand. Using a paired down, minimalist aesthetic, the work has a formal strength that sees this message delivered with visual aplomb.
Upstairs Cri an ivory sculpture depicting the central child of the much used reportage photograph of children fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Despite being one of the most appropriated and reproduced images of the 20th century, the allure of the ivory and the three dimensional representation create an unnerving effect, battling between tactile pleasure and moral repulsion. Less convincing, however, are the charcoal drawings of soldiers of soldiers around on show around it. Whilst his handling of the medium has a strong, earthy quality to it, the subject matter feels hackneyed, and too overtly expressionistic in comparison to the rest of the show.
The final piece on display is a large scale, multiscreen video installation State loosely inspired by Republican prisoner protests at HM Prison Maze in the late 1970s. Prisoners refused to leave their cells out of protest, and in response the authorities refused to clean them. Soon their rooms became so filthy that faeces begun were even smeared across the walls. Abdessemed’s creates abstract, labyrinthine animations that press in on you from all sides, sickening and mesmerising at the same time. Whilst this show has nothing to rival the immediate wow factor of Telle mere tel fils, the aforementioned passenger planes, here we see his continued ability to create an immersive and show stopping environment.
Despite the range of mediums and a jump in subject from Vietnam to Northern Ireland, this is a cohesive show, full of stand-out moments. Whilst the (not inconsiderable) size of the London site has necessitated a reduction in scale, the quality on offer is in no way reduced, and Abdessemed’s exploration of war – or more simply fighting – and art is fresh and carefully considered.
Words: © William Summerfield ArtLyst 2013 Photos: Courtesy David Zwirner London
Special event: Thursday, March 7 | 6:15 PM doors open | 6:30 PM tour begins
Guided tour of the exhibition, Adel Abdessemed: Le Vase abominable, by Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK.
This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. For more information and to RSVP, contact:
Sidonie Motion 020 3538 3165 firstname.lastname@example.org.