Adel Abdessemed: L’âge d’or

Past Exhibition

L’age d’or is the first solo exhibition by Adel Abdessemed at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. Curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi, this exhibition includes recent works, and many are created especially for this show in Doha.

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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.

“The exhibition offers time for debating ideas, writes Abdellah Karroum, Mathaf’s Director. The body of the exhibition, whose organs the artist sculpted, and whose joints reconstruct the architecture, fills the senses and alerts the gaze. Adel Abdessemed’s L’âge d’or (The Golden Age) is a strong exhibition that opens itself to the violence of the world. The artwork continues to question the very foundation of art as a force of critique, with the artist inventing the material of his vocabulary, and it suggests a radical artistic response.”

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, titled Shams and created in situ,depicts and explores the unseen workers of this world. Other new sculptures include 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 Mathaf will house Le Vase abominable (2013), a 5 1/2 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.

A limited-edition bilingual Arabic-English three-volume exhibition catalogue designed by M/M Paris, featuring three newly commissioned essays by Pier Luigi Tazzi, Angela Mengoni and 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.