Hassan Hajjaj: A Taste of Things To Come

Hassan Hajjaj: A Taste of Things To Come

Barakat Contemporary, Seoul
August 5 to September 27, 2020.

Barakat Contemporary presents a solo exhibition of the artist Hassan Hajjaj, A Taste of Things to Come, from August 5 to September 27, 2020.
Hassan Hajjaj moved to England with his family at a young age and is an artist who lives and works in Morocco and England, using photography as his main medium. The title of this exhibition, A Taste of Things to Come, is a message that reveals an embracing worldview that looks at the future through a constructive and positive perspective, taking care of one another and moving forwards at a time when humans are faced with global change. Through his body of work, the artist seeks to convey the importance of sharing the various cultural tastes of the world in which we live and communicate with each other.

A Taste of Things to Come, 2020, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Barakat Contemporary

Hajjaj’s work reflects the powerful, rhythmic colors, patterns, and unique poses of North Africa. The artist reveals the hybridity of contemporary culture by creating unique frames that incorporate bottles, cans, toys, recycled tires, and matchboxes. This is not merely decorative, but a reinterpretation of Morocco’s traditional mosaic patterns and tiles from Hajjaj’s point of view, revealing the complexities of contemporary culture. Hajjaj’s body of work is the result of his experiences in multicultural fields of art including street music, fashion and interior design, naturally encountered while living in huge, cosmopolitan London in the 1970s and 1980s, together with North Africa’s intense visual elements. Hajjaj’s work, with its rebellious and creative spirit, will guide us to a vibrant and playful world.

A Taste of Things to Come, 2020, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Barakat Contemporary

This exhibition will feature a series of photographs from the artist’s representative series, including My Rockstars, Kesh Angels, Dakka Marrakchia, Legs, as well as the video work My Rockstars Experimental Vol. 2. In addition, it will be an important occasion to explore Hajjaj’s diverse fields of work, which traverse the boundaries of fashion, design, and art, at the same time as embodying his boutique space in Morocco.

A Taste of Things to Come, 2020, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Barakat Contemporary

With their offhandedly splendid colors, patterns, and designs, Hajjaj’s images lend themselves easily to being interpreted within the category of Pop Art, but they encompass a far more complex and diverse blend of social and cultural layers. This is a pronounced quality of his portrait photographs, which boast creative framing that combines the powerful, rhythmic colors and patterns of North Africa with figures adopting idiosyncratic poses, as well as commercial objects found in Morocco including drinks, canned food, playthings, recycled tires, and matchboxes.

A Taste of Things to Come, 2020, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Barakat Contemporary

The various products combined in his camera’s frame are not simply decorations; they are reinterpretations of traditional Moroccan mosaic patterns and tiles based on the artist’s own perspective, with products often chosen from those produced in the model’s country and a certain sense of humor reflected in terms of the model’s personality or profession. For example, Hajjaj’s first portraits used canned chicken to characterize female models referred to in slang as “chicks,” while cans of beef were used for “beefy” male models. The latest exhibition includes works from some of the artist’s most representative photography series—such as My Rockstars, Kesh Angels, Dakka Marrakchia, and Legs— along with the video work My Rockstars Experimental II. The My Rockstars series in particular is a record of people that Hajjaj met while operating pop-up photography studios on the streets of Marrakesh, London, Paris, and Dubai for over a decade.

Hassan Hajjaj - My Rockstars Experimental Vol. 2, 2013; Video installation
©Hassan Hajjaj

A diverse range of people appear in the series’ images—from famous entertainers to underground musicians, henna tattoo artists, fashion designers, hip hop dancers, martial artists, and cooks. All of them sources of artistic inspiration to Hajjaj, they each follow their own unique lifestyle and path. Within his work, new stories are created for artists working in different realms of life—from Ghetto Gastro (2018/1440), which captures a chefs’ collective working in cooking, design, and art in the Bronx, to the British fashion designer/musician/photographer in Blaize (2013/1434), the Afro-Brazilian dancer/choreographer/acrobat Rilene (2013/434), and the Malian traditional musicians in Songhoy Blues (2014/1435). My Rockstars Experimental II is a video featuring songs, dancing, and other performances by the artists in the My Rockstars photography series. A work of comprehensive art combining music, fashion, installation design, and performance, it places musicians in nine different frames as they sing, rap, play transitional instruments, and belly-dance. It offers an excellent illustration of the artist’s attempts to experiment with different media as each of the photography subjects appears in vividly moving images.

Hassan Hajjaj - Blaize, 2013; Framed photograph; ©Hassan Hajjaj

Other leading series by Hajjaj include Kesh Angels and Dakka Marrakchia, which offer clever twists of Western clichés regarding Arab culture. Women hold an important place in these series:
the women who appear in the works wear hijabs and sit on motorbikes in Morocco’s narrow side streets. Their faces veiled in the images, they wear caftan dresses with leopard and camouflage prints. As they stand before the camera, they stare into its lens— not as secretive, passive presences, but with bold and cynical poses. Hajjaj’s camera presents its figures in bold and vibrant ways, applying the kind of shot-from-below compositions seen in fashion magazines, hip hop, and martial arts performances. The works in these series, which date back as far as the early 2000s, offer an excellent illustration of how deeply engaged the artist is with culture and gender issues.

Hassan Hajjaj - Che Lovelace, 2012; Framed photograph, ©Hassan Hajjaj

Using the space of photography, Hajjaj deconstructs the concept of “country” to create an utterly new dimension of the world—one where boundaries of nations, borders, peoples, and cultures have been torn down, with subjects pursuing an endless affection and joy toward life. As a second-generation immigrant who lived through an era of post-colonialism, Hajjaj focuses less on representing the historical hardships of being situated between North African identity and British colonial history than on adopting this as a new societal phenomenon, sublimating his own multicultural identity and hybridity through art. The photographic spaces he captures may be seen as similar to the “in-between spaces” described by the Indian-English philosopher and cultural critic Homi Bhabha as being linked to the conditions for understanding cultural hybridity. These are spaces where one can elude the mere homogenization or imposition of cultural meaning through colonization, focusing instead on the ambivalence of different cultures and the new cultural phenomena and meanings that emerge there.

A Taste of Things to Come, 2020, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Barakat Contemporary

In addition to his photography and video work, Hajjaj has also produced sculptures and installations. In his travels to Morocco, the artist has obsessively collected everyday items there that remind him of his childhood: book and album covers, film posters, matches, bars of soap, cans, and so forth. To create his sculptures, he had scanned or photographed these collected items to reproduce them via digital means or as newly constructed art objects. It was from this process that his early Pop Art series Graffix from the Souk emerged. Here we see the recycling of old objects that has been a major approach in Hajjaj’s art. Recycling in daily life—making mugs out of cans or using drink crates as chairs—has been a commonplace practice in Morocco, offering an excellent illustration of its socioeconomic context. Hajjaj has adopted the characteristics of this practice in his own artistic process.

Hassan Hajjaj - Ghetto Gastro, 2018; Framed photograph - ©Hassan Hajjaj

The works in his Graffix from the Souk series have been produced in collaboration with Moroccan artisans, craftswomen, and African refugees. As they imbue new hope and purpose into the lives of members of the community, women, and refugees, they broaden the role of art into the social realm. To help in understanding the broad-ranging nature of Hajjaj’s body of work, the latest exhibition includes a recreation of his boutique, where visitors can view Buy Me Shelf (1997/1418)—a piece derived from Graffix from the Souk—as well as various items the artist created through the recycling of Moroccan products. The boutiques that Hajjaj operates in Morocco and the UK function as artistic settings where people can actively communicate with local artists.

Hassan Hajjaj (b. 1961) was born in the northern Moroccan city of Larache and works and lives in Morocco and England. Hajjaj’s numerous solo and group exhibitions include those at the Hayward Gallery, London, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, Somerset House, London, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the British Museum, London, the de Young Museum, San Francisco, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and National Museum of the 21st Century (MAXXI), Rome. His work has been collected by a number of leading institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, Guggenheim Museum Abu Dhabi, Brooklyn Museum, and the British Museum.

Amos Gebhardt / Evanescence

Amos Gebhardt / Evanescence

Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Online viewing Room.

28 April –  28 May 2020


Text by Joanna Kitto

It has been said that if the earth’s lifespan could be represented in 24 hours, the entirety of human existence would begin and end in one second. It is this sense of deep time, and the relative ephemerality of humankind, that Amos Gebhardt draws upon in the performative moving image Evanescence, 2018.

Video excerpt (above): A 1:52min excerpt of selected moments from the Evanescence video.
Courtesy of Amos Hebhardt and Tolarno Galleries

Across four large-scale screens, bodies emerge from and coalesce with the land. Forty dancers move within four sprawling Australian landscapes—a salt lake, rock formations, crescent-shaped sand dunes, and a waterfall—all sites that echo the vastness of geological time. Dwarfed by the landscapes, the human figures appear as living sculptures extending upwards from the earth; a reminder that they are made of the same matter.

AMOS GEBHARDT | ‘Evanescence’ 2018
4 channel, 4K video installation with multi-channel sound; 34 minutes (loop)
Installation view 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Divided Worlds, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Photography by Saul Steed. Courtesy of Tolarno Galleries.

Time is elastic in Evanescence. An infinite loop with no ostensible duration, the unbroken horizon line is fixed in place and the characters are locked in a dance with no beginning and no end. Labelling them ‘characters’ draws our attention to the way narrative is treated by the artist. A trained filmmaker, Amos Gebhardt is alert to screen language and to our aptitude in reading it. Traditional cinema relies on pulling the camera towards the face to encourage empathy with the protagonist, and Hollywood in particular has asked us to view the world through the metric of the white male body. Without cutaways or close-ups, Gebhardt breaks from these cinematic narrative constructs to offer no such privilege. The bodies that populate Evanescence are diverse in age, gender, and race; an array of human expression that creates a space of pluralism and makes visible identities that are frequently excluded from the dominant paradigm of western screen culture. Together, they form a portrait of contemporary Australia – diaspora, settlers and First Nations Australians entwined.

Evanescence, installation view, 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Divided Worlds, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Photography by Saul Steed. Courtesy of Tolarno Galleries
AMOS GEBHARDT | ‘Evanescence’ (Water #3)
2018; archival inkjet pigment print, 100 x 150 cm – Courtesy of Tolarno Galleries.

And, while our eyes are trained to focus on the human form, sustained viewing of Evanescence reveals an anti-hierarchical treatment of the bodies and the landscapes. The human forms are reduced in the composition, a tactic that disrupts the Anthropocentric belief in our significance. How small we are against the immensity of time, and of the natural world.

Sounds emitting from the dancers are woven through field recordings to create a soundtrack that reinforces the idea that place does not preference the human experience. At once we hear the intake and exhale of breath, a grunt, a slap of skin on skin, running water and the bracing call of the butcherbird. A native Australian songbird, the butcherbird species is thought to have diverged from the currawong thirteen million years ago and the magpie six million years ago. Its ancient song is a call into deep time.

AMOS GEBHARDT | ‘Evanescence’ (Rock #4)
2018; archival inkjet pigment print, 80 x 130 cm – Courtesy of Tolarno Galleries

Ruptures ripple through Evanescence. At a certain point, the languid movement choreographed by Gebhardt and Melanie Lane takes a dramatic shift and the dancers begin to act out a form of self-flagellation. In this violent flinging of limbs, arms collide with backs and torsos and we hear the impact of flesh on flesh. The dancers’ feet slide into the sand as they attempt to find solid ground. The earth makes its mark on the bodies, and the bodies make their mark on the earth. As this scene plays out across the four screens, there is a suggestion that the violence and damage wrought is evidence of humankind’s inevitable impermanence. The cycle will end, but when?

Joanna Kitto is Associate Curator at the University of South Australia’s Samstag Museum of Art.

AMOS GEBHARDT | ‘Evanescence’ (Cave #1)
2018; archival inkjet pigment print, 80 x 135 cm – Courtesy of Tolarno Galleries

Amos Gebhardt’s works have a cinematic scale. Techniques of collage, dance, slow motion and time lapse are used to frame large-scale, multi-screen video installations and photographs that examine intersections between culture, nature and the body. Gebhardt is interested in mapping both human and non-human narratives.
Amos Gebhardt is the 2019 recipient of the inaugural Adelaide Studios Artist Residency, presented by the South Australian Film Corporation and Adelaide Studios in partnership with SALA (South Australian Living Artists) Festival, and the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art. The 3 channel video: Amos Gebhardt: Small acts of resistance will premiere at Samstag from 3 July to 11 September 2020.

AMOS GEBHARDT | ‘Evanescence’ (Salt #1)
2018; archival inkjet pigment print, 70 x 110 cm – Courtesy of Tolarno Galleries

A Sidney Myer Creative Fellow (2014) and Masters graduate of Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), Gebhardt’s work has been exhibited at M+ Museum, Hong Kong; ACMI, Melbourne; MONA, Hobart; Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne and broadcast on SBS and ABC.
Gebhardt created visuals for Kate Miller-Heidke’s 2016 Helpmann Award-winning concert with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra at MOFO. Gebhardt directed Second Unit on Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth (2015), starring Marion Cotillard premiering in competition at Cannes Film Festival.
Tolarno Galleries presented Amos Gebhardt’s solo exhibition, Night Horse, at the 2019 Sydney Contemporary art fair.

The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project at Hara Museum, TOKYO

The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project at Hara Museum, TOKYO

The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project
UNTIL July 28, 2019
Hara Museum, TOKYO

Hara Museum presents The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project, an exhibition conceived and directed by Jae-Eun Choi. The Dreaming of Earth Project was launched by Choi in 2014 to seek ways to protect the rich ecosystem that has emerged within the Demilitarized Sone (DMZ) on the Korean Peninsula during the 65 years since the armistice agreement. Its larger goal is peaceful co-existence with the creatures of the DMZ, between Korea’s North and South and among all lifeforms on this planet Earth. This exhibition is being presented to provide impetus for the realization of the project.

Participating Artists: Shigeru Ban, Minsuk Cho, Jae-Eun Choi, , Jaeseung Jeong, Tadashi Kawamata, Kim Taedong, Lee Bul, Lee Ufan, Seung H-Sang, Studio Mumbai, Studio Other Spaces: Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann

Jae-Eun Choi, hatred melts like snow, 2019 (reference image) ©Kim Taedong

Jae-Eun Choi
Jae-Eun Choi was born in 1953 in Seoul, Korea. In 1976, she moved to Japan where she studied the Sogetsu style of ikebana. From 1984 to 1987, she worked as an assistant to Hiroshi Teshigahara, the third generation master of the Sogetsu school and film director. In the years that followed, her work began to appear in international art exhibitions, including the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995 when she was selected as Japan’s representative. In 2001, she made her debut as a movie director with the film On The Way. In 2010, she held Forests of Aśoka at the Hara Museum, her first solo exhibition in Japan. As a student of the Sogetsu school, Choi learned not only the surface aspects of the art, but also its spatial concepts and cosmic view. Combining this knowledge with her rich sensibility, Choi extended the art form into the realm of installation. In her early works, Choi adopted such materials as plants, water, air, fire and earth to superimpose onto human life the time flow of plants encompassing the change from growth to decay. In doing so, she took ikebana in terms of both concept and scale far beyond its traditional boundaries. Choi began working on the World Underground Project from 1986 at various locales in the world, including Kyongju, Korea; Imadate in Fukui prefecture, Japan; and a number of places in Europe, the U.S. and Africa. Homage to Mozart (1988) in the Hara Museum Collection is one work from this revolutionary project in which washi (Japanese handmade paper) is buried within the earth for a period of time to allow the environment at each locale to take over the “completion” of the work, thereby striking a blow at the conventional idea of “art” as a product of human artifice. In later works, she used the microscope to explore motifs taken from the micro world. Through her career, the form of Choi’s artworks has undergone unceasing change. What ties them together are her ideas about and concern for life, which have continued to be the underlying theme in all of her art.

Tadanori Yokoo “B29 and Homeland—From My Childhood to Andy Warhol” at SCAI The Bathhouse, TOKYO

Tadanori Yokoo “B29 and Homeland—From My Childhood to Andy Warhol” at SCAI The Bathhouse, TOKYO

Tadanori Yokoo
“B29 and Homeland—From My Childhood to Andy Warhol”
31 May – 6 July 2019
SCAI The Bathhouse, TOKYO

Tadanori Yokoo’s practice embodies a unique perspective, using an astute and penetrating understanding of the times. His work always attracts international interest, and he applies his talent to a wide range of genres, from the visual arts to literature. As evidenced, for example, by the Y-Junction series, Yokoo’s art is characterized by playing out through a series of iterations on a subject while freely changing the mode of expression. There are as many different types of expression as there are works, and there are as many ‘Tadanori Yokoos’as there are different types of expression. This incredibly rich variety stems from the artist’s knowledge of art history and his inquiring mind.

©Tadanori Yokoo, photo: Tomoki Imai

The curious title,“B29 and Homeland—From My Childhood to Andy Warhol,”hints at the complexity of meaning encompassed by the exhibition. Born in 1936, Yokoo’s childhood coincided with the Second World War and its aftermath. Fragments of that period, such as occupation forces and aircraft conducting air raids, appear sporadically as motifs in his art. However, as memories and experiences, they creep onto the canvas naturally, rather than as the result of a conscious decision to make war the topic. One could say that to Yokoo, who grew up and produced his art along with the post-war era, the history of modern Japan and that of his oeuvre are inextricably linked.
The principal focus of the exhibition is on portraits of distinguished personalities, including historical post-war figures like Douglas MacArthur, the movie character Tarzan, and the cultural icon Andy Warhol. The portraits are combined with a smattering of Y-Junction pieces, creating a multifaceted world, something akin to a general retrospective of the cultural experiences of the artist during and after the war.

“Land of the Lustrous” UCCA Dune’s first summer exhibition

“Land of the Lustrous” UCCA Dune’s first summer exhibition

Land of the Lustrous
23.04.2019 – 08.09.2019
UCCA Dune, Beidaihe

From April 23 to September 8, 2019, UCCA Dune presents “Land of the Lustrous,” encompassing work by ten artists both in and beyond China. Each artwork in this exhibition relates—materially or formally—to the figure of the stone, approaching this age-old object from novel perspectives. Participating artists weave their individual concerns together, drawing from, and sinking into, ancient collective memories. “Land of the Lustrous”—UCCA Dune’s first summer exhibition—has been devised to fit the unique spatial characteristics of the building, and the surrounding environment. Designed by by Li Hu and Huang Wenjing of OPEN Architecture, UCCA Dune is nestled in the sand by the BohaiSea in the Aranya Gold Coast Community, 300 kilometers from Beijing. As with all of UCCA’s endeavors, this exhibition proceeds from UCCA’s core mission ofbringing urgent positions in contemporary art, both Chinese and international, to an ever-widening viewing public. The exhibition is curated by UCCA Curator Yang Zi.

Artworks in “Land of the Lustrous” serve as explorations of a single animistbelief: that rock, a piece of seemingly inert matter, is actually endowed with life and thought. Wang Sishun’s Apocalypse 16.9.1, for example, personifies a collection of three found stones; arrayed in a line, they stand rigidly upright, in cautious dialogue, as if participating in a tense religious rite. Zhao Yao, Lin Xue, and Miguel Angel Ríos, similarly, have selected stones of unassuming appearance and brought them to life by cleverly manipulating their details, positions, and “postures”: Zhao Yao has placed an enormous red Mani stone on the margin of sand and sea surrounding UCCA Dune, like a giant cell, absorbing sunlight; Lin Xue has drawn a series of fruit pits, collected from a mountainousforest, transforming them into a set of heavenly bodies, or a life system. Ríos’s film records a cascade of tumbling spheroid stones, reminding viewers of the vigorous movements of antelope.

The proposition that stone “is alive” results in several ancillary questions—is humankind the measure of the universe? Is it shortsighted to base values solely on human needs, universalizing our limited ways of understanding the world? As urbanization and modernization progress, will such nearsighted forms of knowledge bring about a corresponding rise in alienation? After all, only humans can consume, produce, and create surplus value in the world of capital; in this game, “nature” can serve only as dead material. Timur Si-qin and Su-Mei Tsestrive to imagine models and rubrics that are separate from “nature itself.” Si-qin’s Juniper, produced in 2019, is a kind of billboard for the Anthropocene, advertising the spatial and temporal concepts attendant to this new epoch. Su-Mei Tse’s “Stone Collection,” on the other hand, reminds viewers of the Ancient Chinese custom of collecting oddly-shaped stones to serve as foci for ouryearning for nature, for mountains and water. Tse’s presentation of these stones, however, carries a touch of the existential—as we are faced with the inhuman, shaped as it has been over millennia, does our tendency to measure time by our own lifespans not seem absurd? Li Weiyi’s Cairn gives a humorous take on this absurdity: as viewers wear VR goggles, they are transported to the interior of a stone, its sturdiness fusing with that of their bodies. Other artists use these mysterious, self-contained images to create a spectral stage on which to perform their own, fantastic tales. Lu Pingyuan has taken thestory of an art collective, “Meteorite Hunters,” scouring the earth for fallen meteorites and launching them back into outer space, and carved it on the surfaces of three stones. Yan Xing has enacted one of his own stories of industrial design in Republican Era China, featuring the radiant exchange between a piece of jade and an indoor light fixture. Wang Xiaoqu’s paintings explore the rich middle ground between two different interpretations of a photograph—that of the photographer, and that of the artist. Wang purposefully “misunderstands” photos of everyday life and of travel, and turns Chinese sayings—such as “feeling for stones as one advances”—into outlandish diagrams.

The exhibition also provides a series of myths—many from China’s deep antiquity— that center on the figure of the stone, forming an interpretive framework for the artworks. These visual misreadings closely resemble the oral transmission—and mutation—of myths. As the Chinese scholar Yuan Ke has said, “the circulation and evolution of popular myths is a complex affair, one that is difficult to investigate.” In this exhibition, a discourse based on precedent and change links to a more capacious visual system, an interchange that dependsless on precision than on inspiration. “Land of the Lustrous” hopes to uncover and awaken several possibilities often overlooked in the context of contemporary art. China has a long, fruitful history of worshiping stone deities; this most ordinary of objects has gained an aura of ineffability in popular consciousness. This aura suffuses the artworks, too, circumventing that anxiety plaguing Wittgenstein as he described “pictures placed in language.”


UCCA Dune is an art museum buried under a sand dune by the Bohai Sea in Beidaihe, 300 kilometers east of Beijing. Designed by OPEN Architecture, its galleries unfold over a series of cell-like spaces that evoke caves. Some are naturally lit from above, while others open out onto the beach. As a branch of UCCA, China’s leading independent institution of contemporary art, it presents rotating exhibitions in dialogue with its particular site and space. UCCA Dune is built and supported by UCCA strategic partner Aranya, and located within the Aranya Gold Coast Community.

All images > Courtesy © UCCA Dune

Chen Dazhi solo exhibition “Time Pleat” at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing

Chen Dazhi solo exhibition “Time Pleat” at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing

Chen Dazhi, Time Pleat
May 24 – June 23, 2019
Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre presents the Chen Dazhi solo exhibition: “Time Pleat”. All works exhibited fall into five parts – “Outside the Concretization,” “Interval,” “Outside the Parallel,” “Searching,” and “Memory of Tibet.” Generally-speaking, they display what Chen desires to pursue in terms of the natural landscape, human activity, and the spiritual world. For Chen, these aspects constitute his perception of the world and also his understanding of the world through the spiritual practice of photography.

The title Time Pleat evokes photography and the visualization of spirits across the dimensions of time and space. Chen’s ultimate aim is to dispel the barriers between image, medium, and spirit that arise from technology or culture and unify them. He presents the spiritual secrets hidden in the time pleat through the unfolding of realistic images, visualizing his own inherent spirit and subjectivity.

Chen Dazhi was born in Rongcheng, Shandong Province, China in 1966. He received a Bachelor of Engineering from Nanjing University of Science and Technology and a master’s degree in journalism from Renmin University. Before starting his own business, he worked as a software engineer,a newspaper reporter and editor, the president of a newspaper office, and the president of an investment company. He began his career in photography in 2009. Chen’s Linear System technique infuses the spirit of ink wash painting and Chinese culture into photography. His early experiments with the technique received great acclaim and led him to give full play to the Linear System and expand it to include a range of subject matter, giving his images a strong personal style and unique artistic appeal.

All images > Installation view Chen Dazhi solo exhibition “Time Pleat” at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing

Leila Alaoui: Ya Rayah, Galleria Continua, Beijing

Leila Alaoui: Ya Rayah, Galleria Continua, Beijing

Leila Alaoui: Ya Rayah
23 Mar 2019 to 28 Jul 2019

Galleria Continua presents for the first time in China an exhibition of the work of Franco-Moroccan artist Leila Alaoui. The title of the exhibition has been borrowed from the Algerian song by Dahmane El Harrachi, Ya Rayah: ‘O, you who are leaving’. This song of exile was written in the 1970s and remains popular to this day. Its words are steeped in homesickness and the sufferings of exile, while its melody distills an unspeakable melancholy. Whether in No Pasara, her first work as a professional photographer, for which she worked with Moroccan youths yearning for a nearby yet distant Europe, or in her unfinished project with the immigrant workers of the old Renault factory in Boulogne- Billancourt—L’Île du Diable—, or in her encounters with Syrian refugees in Lebanon for Natreen or Sub-Saharan African migrants for Crossings, Leila Alaoui was consistently aiming her lens at exiles, those who have been abandoned, left to disappear behind clichés and statistics. In so doing, she brought into focus the faces and the return gazes of men and women and children, with all that these told of the loss of home, of waiting, of regrets in the face of harsh reality, and of hope despite everything. Alaoui’s encounters with these people are humbly revealed in a sensitive body of work that she herself defined as primarily social.

Leila Alaoui – Les Marocains – Series 2010-2014, Inkjet print on wall paper, Site specific dimension. Photo: Dong Lin

The exhibition opens with the series Les Marocains, in very large format, on the same scale as the exhibition space. This long- distance project, inspired by Robert Frank’s Americans, saw Leila Alaoui travelling through Morocco with a mobile studio, weaving together a multifaceted portrait of a country through its inhabitants. Arabs and Berbers, women and men, adults and children can be found side by side in a mosaic of traditions, cultures, and aesthetics. As many customs were gradually disappearing in the face of unbridled globalisation, these portraits constitute something like the outlines of a visual archive. But more than a simple documentary, Les Marocains was also a way for the young photographer to seek out her own heritage, to bring together the distance implied in the whole apparatus of camera with a form of intimacy that drew on her Moroccan roots and that was forged through the encounters she made with the people on her journey. An irrevocable way to make a claim for an autonomous aesthetic, freed of all Orientalist folklore and focusing on the dignitity of individuals and of a country.

Leila Alaoui – No Pasara – Series 2008, Lambda print mounted on Dibond, 73 x 102 cm. Photo: Dong Lin

No Pasara, Alaoui’s first photographic project, acts as a sort of manifesto for her social engagement. This series shows the many faces of a Moroccan youth looking for a passage to Europe, candidates to an uncertain exile, uprooted in the heart of their own country. Remarkably humble as a portraitist, Alaoui knew how to observe them, to listen to them, only taking up her camera after long periods of shared time and exchange. She wished to grasp as best she could something of the lives, the dreams and mirages of those called Harragas (‘those who burn’), along with the necessity they all felt for leaving their birthplace. Crossings, with its portraits of Sub-Saharan African migrants, is also the expression of encounters. This series, which began as a video work before becoming photographic, approaches these women and men who have left everything behind in their quest for a better life on the other side of the Mediterranean, with all the dangers of a journey in which others have lost their lives, and attempts to let them speak. Those who made it as far as Morocco, washing up almost at the door to Europe, bear the visible or invisible scars of their unfinished voyage. In the intensity of their gaze and of their stories, one discovers a continuity both with the No Pasara photographs and those of the Syrian refugees fleeing war and chaos in another series, Natreen, which Alaoui made in Libya in 2013. Men, women, and children in a foreign country, dispossessed of their land and their property, hoping for a better future but stuck in an apparently interminable holding pattern. Morocco, Syria, Central Africa: other places, other reasons to flee. Everywhere, the same uprooting, the same hope, illusions crashing against the same reality. Leila Alaoui determinedly fixed her sights on this reality, making herself into an echo chamber for these distant voices, even while she was able to delicately, humbly retranscribe the beauty of these people already become something more than the anonymous figures of the news.

Leila Alaoui – Les Marocains – Series 2010-2014, Inkjet print on wall paper, Site specific dimension. Photo: Dong Lin

The project L’Île du Diable, which is presented here in video format, is a work that Alaoui began near Paris in Boulogne-Billancourt, where she had sought out the one-time immigrant workers of the Renault factory that used to be situated on Seguin Island—nicknamed ‘the Devil’s island’ by the workers. The factory, which today has been completely demolished, was one of the biggest in the country, a veritable pin-up of French industry that over its years in operation, from the 1930s until 1992, employed a large number of foreign workers, especially from Africa and Asia. After her first projects, in which she sought out people wishing to migrate in order to tell the story of their attempts at departure, their hopes, and the obstacles lying in their way, Alaoui now turned her gaze to those who had arrived. Uprooted workers labouring in difficult conditions, they were actors in the great social struggles of the 1960s to defend their rights and their dignity. This unfinished project of Alaoui’s aimed at letting them tell their story, letting them recount the social memory of immigrant workers. The video presented here shows their faces, either in portraits or as witnesses returning to the site of the old factory. The video was to be the first part of a larger project, in which the younger generations of immigrant workers were to have been invited to speak also, contributing to a global perspective.

Leila Alaoui – Natreen – Series 2013, Lambda print mounted on Dibond, 40 x 60 cm. Photo: Dong Lin

Leila Alaoui, Franco-Moroccan artist, photographer, and video maker, was born in 1982. She studied photography at City University in New York. Her work explores the construction of identity, cultural diversity, and migration in the Mediterranean. She used photography and video art to express social realities through a visual language situated somewhere between documentary and visual art. Her work has been exhibited internationally since 2009, including in Paris at L’Institut du Monde Arabe and La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, in Sweden at Malmö Konsthall, and at the Cascais Citadel Palace in Portugal. Leila Alaoui’s humanitarian engagement includes photographic commissions from NGOs including the Danish Refugee Council, Search for Common Ground, and the Human Rights Commission. In January 2016, while working on a commission from Amnesty International about women’s rights in Burkina Faso, Leila Alaoui fell victim to the terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou. She died from her wounds on 18 January 2016. The Leila Alaoui Foundation was created to preserve her work, defend her values, and inspire and support humanist artistic engagement.

Leila Alaoui – Natreen – Series 2013, Lambda print mounted on Dibond, 40 x 60 cm. Photo: Dong Lin





From May 23 until August 31, 2019

Massimo De Carlo announces McArthur Binion’s first exhibition in Asia. The Hong Kong presentation will be presented jointly with Lehmann Maupin, which will be opening simultaneously in both their Hong Kong and Seoul galleries. Spanning all three spaces, these joint exhibitions present an unprecedented opportunity to view new work by the 72-year-old American artist who has been garnering increasing international attention. Throughout his fifty-year practice of assemblage painting, Binion has continually defied classification as an artist. Terms such as “abstraction” and “minimalism” has often been employed as a descriptors for his large scale paintings, however Binion himself resists such rigid categorisations of his work. Through his rich and tumultuous career, Binion has developed an incredibly complex practice, incorporating interwoven personal memories with historical recollection and his experience of America in the past, by layering paint and personal memorabilia onto large-scale canvases.


In the 1970’s, Binion immersed himself within the renowned downtown New York art scene — socializing and working among artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt.Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, his style evolved from moregestural abstraction to include increasingly pared-down, colorful, and geometric abstraction. Binion’s distinctive insertion of narrative and personal history and his emphasis on content, differentiates his work from the more reductive Minimalist practices of other artists and continues to do so today. In his DNA series, previously shown in Massimo De Carlo London, the artist blends private documents, such as negatives of his birth certificate (which references the situation of many that, like him, were born in rural communities and whose births were never recorded) and hand written pages of his old phone books are covered with layers of painted coloured grids, that conceal and at the same time introduce the narration element of his practice. These works made their international debut in 2017 at the Venice Biennale.


Such use of personal documents asserts Binion’s own existence, whereas the layers of paint encompass the artists’ experience with authority and the art world in America. Insofar, the intricate surfaces of the canvases become abstract shapes and motives: the artist’s archival belongings, that can only be seen when in very close physical proximity to the canvas, are transformed by the paintbrush into weightily textured patterns and reflect the importance of the influence of modernism in McArthur Binion’s practice. In his newest Hand:Work:II paintings, Binion’s usage of his hand is a symbol he repeats across the large canvas. An emblem for his personal touch upon the work, the gesture of the hand also hints at the time- consuming and laborious nature of his practice. The incorporation of his hand indicates the motif as a self- generating subject, veering the Hand:Work:II series into a new conceptual territory, expanding his repertoire to include performative self-portraiture. Additionally, Binion has employed the bold and brightly saturated hues of his earlier paintings in colorful ink washes poured and spread across the photocopied pages of his address books from that period. In recent years, Binion has emerged as an increasingly important artist of his generation, combining the post-minimal embrace of new, commercial grade materials, with a more personalized approach to the austere, formal devices of minimalism, realized through the incorporation of his personal history into these deceptively simple paintings.

Thomas Ruff, Transforming Photography, David Zwirner, Hong Kong

Thomas Ruff, Transforming Photography, David Zwirner, Hong Kong

Thomas Ruff : Transforming Photography
May 22—June 29, 2019
David Zwirner, Hong Kong

David Zwirner presents work by German photographer Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), on view across two floors of the gallery’s Hong Kong location. The exhibition will provide an overview of the artist’s prodigious career, ranging from a seminal early series to two bodies of new work that were initiated in 2018, tripe and flower.s. Ruff rose to international prominence in the late 1980s as a member of the Düsseldorf School, a group of young photographers who studied under Bernd and Hilla Becher at the renowned Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and became known for their experimental approach to the medium and its evolving technological capabilities. Ruff, in particular, made a radical break with the style of his teachers, establishing a distinct approach to conceptual photography through a variety of strategies, including the use of color, the purposeful manipulation of source imagery—originally through manual retouching techniques and eventually through digital methods—and the enlargement of the photographic print to the scale of monumental painting. Working in discrete series, Ruff has since utilized these methods to conduct an in-depth examination of a variety of photographic genres, including portraiture, the nude, landscape, archival, and architectural photography, among others.

Thomas Ruff
STE 1.49 (08h 52m / -60°), 1992
Chromogenic print with Diasec
102 3/8 x 74 inches (260 x 188 cm)

By the end of the twentieth century, digital technologies of reproduction had become prevalent, and the majority of Ruff’s work since that time reflects this transition to a new mode of image construction, distribution, and reception, as evidenced by the works on view. While a number of Ruff’s series from the earlier part of his career similarly eschew the traditional use of a camera—including his Sterne (Stars) photographs (1989–1992), in which he worked with negatives that he acquired from the archive of the European Southern Observatory to print large-scale, nearly abstract starscapes—in several later series the artist goes further to experiment with achieving analog effects through digital means, often without the use of a camera. For example, for tripe (2018–2019), Ruff worked with high-resolution images of paper negatives taken in the 1850s in India and Burma (now Myanmar) by Captain Linnaeus Tripe, an officer in Britain’s East India Company army. Held in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, these negatives represent a nineteenth-century solution for travel photography because they were lighter and more transportable than glass negatives, though they were also more susceptible to aging. Ruff used a computer program to invert these negatives into positive images, then further digitally manipulated them in a manner analogous to hand-retouching, thus highlighting both the subject matter of the images and the analog processes used to create them. Likewise, to create the works in his ongoing phg. series (2012–), Ruff utilizes a custom software program to compose visually complex, illusory arrangements of shapes and colors that resemble the photograms made by the Surrealists in the 1920s by arranging objects on top of light-sensitive paper. For these artists, the ability to make a photographic image without a camera was both radical and experimental, whereas, paradoxically, Ruff’s use of a computer to simulate this process allows the artist a higher degree of control over the final composition.

Thomas Ruff
jpeg ea01, 2007
Chromogenic print with Diasec
98 3/8 x 72 3/4 inches (249.9 x 184.8 cm)

In the newest body of work on view, flower.s (2018–), Ruff uses a combination of digital manipulation and analog techniques to approximate pseudo-solarization (also known as the Sabattier effect), another effect favored by the Surrealists in which light and dark areas of an image are partially transposed during the printing process. To create these works, Ruff first uses a digital camera to photograph flowers or leaves arranged on the surface of a light box, then employs a software program to alter their tonal values. He then prints the resulting image onto aged paper, imbuing the resultant compositions with an old-fashioned feel. Several of the other series presented in the exhibition call attention to the way in which images circulate in the internet era. To create his nudes (1999–), Ruff searches the internet for pornographic images, which he then enlarges, deliberately manipulating the low-resolution files by further blurring the image and sometimes altering their color or removing details. In his Substrate(Substrates; 2001–), Ruff complicates notions of pictorial abstraction. Endeavoring to create a purely abstract photographic image, the artist found that he could do so by blowing up colorful images from Japanese manga cartoons to the point where all identifiable detail is lost, resulting only in psychedelically hued, amorphous forms. The exhibition will also include several images from Ruff’s jpegs (2004–), a number of which will be on view for the first time. To make these works, Ruff sources low-resolution photographic images from the internet, and subsequently digitally manipulates them. Blown up to the scale of traditional nineteenth-century history paintings, these images remain legible yet noticeably blurred, producing an almost painterly effect wherein grids of mechanical pixilation substitute for the expressiveness of a brushstroke, and, like the works of the Impressionists, the full image comes into view only at a distance.

Earthing, Ugo Rondinone, Kukje Gallery, Seoul

Earthing, Ugo Rondinone, Kukje Gallery, Seoul

Earthing, Ugo Rondinone
May 16, 2019 – Jun 30, 2019
Kukje Gallery, Seoul

Like a diarist, I record the living universe; this sun, this cloud, this rain, this tree, this animal, this season, this day, this hour, this wind, this kind of earth, this kind of water, this sound in the grass, this pitch of wind, this silence.
– Ugo Rondinone

Kukje Gallery presents earthing, an exhibition of work by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. This is the second solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery. Installed in both Kukje’s K2 and K3 galleries, earthing will include four distinct bodies of work that, though different, share the artist’s sensitive approach to materials and his commitment to exploring the role of nature in shaping the human experience. Throughout the various mediums the artist retains his focus on observation and recording “the living universe.”

The exhibition begins within the K3 gallery and a single sculpture that sits in the heart of the space. Titled the sun (2017), this circular sculpture is a massive gilded bronze ring constructed using bent tree branches the artist gathered. Balancing vertically on the floor in the middle of the gallery and resembling a great gate, the sun mirrors the way the artist has used other circular forms such as clock faces to suggest passage across time and through space. In much the same way that the hands of a clock follow the cycle of the sun, the sun powerfully evokes the force and omnipresence of our most proximate star in its symbolic use of the circle. Rondinone’s decision to construct the ring by lashing overlapping wooden branches together with wire, combined with his transformation of these materials into weighty but radiant gilt bronze, allows him to celebrate the paradox of our everyday reliance on the sun’s energy, and its mythic incarnation in our imagination. Confronting this archetypal power, Rondinone uses gold and casting, as processes of transformation, to further tie the sun to metamorphosis and the romantic tradition of synthesizing nature with the sublime. In the K2 gallery, the artist presents a site-specific installation comprised of three discreet works that together create a total environment. The first is titled primordial (2016) a room-sized work that consists of fifty-two life- sized, hand-sculpted cast bronze fish that hang from the ceiling. primordial is a body of work in a larger series consisting of three animal groups: primitive (birds), primal (horses), and primordial (fish). Each group represents a natural phenomenon or element: air, earth, and water.

Primordial is installed with two other works two standing landscapes (2019) and yellow white green clock (2012), balancing the conceptual precision and interest in theatrical spaces the artist is known for. The fish in primordial are hung evenly throughout the K2 gallery; suspended at differing heights, they create a sense of tremendous depth, beckoning the viewer to walk slowly within the space as if they were carefully navigating an underwater forest. This sense of entering an enchanted space is heightened by a site-specific work titled two standing landscapes which consists of a unique soil mixture that has been applied directly to the pillars that punctuate the gallery’s interior architecture. Covering them completely, the pillars become discreet, uncanny objects floating in space. Part of an ongoing series of soil sculptures, two standing landscapes has the effect of transforming the gallery into something organic, charging it with a metamorphic air. While the application of the rough medium evokes a wild, inchoate environment, Rondinone’s careful attention to the installation maintains a sublime balance with the other two works, thereby insuring the viewer is held in a state of meditation as they contemplate material fragility, mass and weightlessness, and their own body.

This sense of being immersed in a sculptural environment allows Rondinone to accomplish one of his stated goals for the landscape series, “creating a mental space.” This interest in phenomenology and the way the observation of nature can mirror consciousness is further evoked by the presence of time, illustrated by an exquisitely fabricated stained glass clock-face that hangs on the gallery’s far wall: yellow white green clock. The final work in K2, this modestly scaled work includes the Roman numerals familiar from a regular clock but has no hands, thereby suggesting not only the passage of time but something more metaphysical; glowing against the gallery wall, the work resembles a window into another space and echoes the way colored glass has been used in churches to signal transcendence. In this way, the clock face suggests a porthole or ontological threshold and acts as a poetic double entrende, courting the viewer’s imagination to visualize what lies beyond the gallery’s walls. In much the same way, each fish in primordial, individually crafted and bearing the fingerprints of the artist, has been given a separate unique title by Rondinone, thereby setting it apart from the others and giving it a special power. Titles such as the boulder, the marsh, and the ecosystem, both as singular ideas and when taken together, create a poetic vehicle for transporting the viewer—a parallel meaning that echoes the clock face that embodies but does not tell the time.




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