Algerian-born, Paris-based artist has been called everything from “perverse” to “outrageous” – yet he explains his work so compellingly and sincerely that it is impossible to write him off as just another hackneyed act. In an interview with Margherita Dessanay in Elephant #14, he describes his art as “violent because it produces reactions within people. It requires a commitment, with intelligence. Is there violence in art? It happens when you listen to music or read some books by good authors: there is violence in there because they are powerful, they affect and move you. And once you are touched in this way, that feeling can’t leave you… Everything is violent in no matter what form.” His new exhibition, entitled L’âge d’or, presents a panoply of his recent works including sculptures, videos and paintings, and is both artistically and emotionally charged.
Curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi and staged at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, the show features Abdessemed’s signature style of harnessing different materials for their trenchant symbolic impact. These include salt, brass, gum, terracotta, camel bones and gold, all of which are often used together to create complex textures and meanings. The eponymous L’âge d’or, which is the central focus of the exhibition, is a bas-relief work of gold-plated brass. It is a poignant depiction of the artist’s four young daughters, captured in a fleeting “golden moment”. Another highlight of the exhibition is Shams, a large-scale terracotta wall relief that explores the unseen workers of this world. The exhibition will also see the screening of two of Abdessemed’s most recent video works: Mémoire (2012), which shows a baboon spelling out ‘Tutsi’ and ‘Hutu’, referring to the opposing ethnic groups in the 1994 Rwandan genocide; and State (2013), an animation with labyrinth-like drawings. Violent these works may be, but they are violent in the way they disrupt the complacency of contemporary thought, rather than crude in their execution.
Says Mathaf’s Director, Abdellah Karroum: “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.”
L’âge d’or is on at Mathaf until 5 January.
, P.O.Box 2777, Education City, Doha, Qatar
Images courtesy of the artists, David Zwirner New York/London, and the photographers.