The title of Adel Abdessemed’s 2011 work Hope references Caspar David Friedrich’s, Die gescheiterte Hoffnung (The Wreck of Hope, 1823–24). Friedreich’s painting expresses the concept of disappointed aspirations, mirroring the tragic results of many migrant journeys. The heavy materiality of Hope — an actual, dense object — contrasts with the recurring media images of mass migration which have flickered in and out of our screens for more than a decade. Adel Abdessemed recently discussed this notion and what moves him to create, in conversation with Shifting Vision.
Watch Adel Abdessemed’s interview for Shifting Vision on his sculpture “Mon enfant”.
Adel Abdessemed’s ivory sculpture Mon enfant is based on a famous archival photograph taken in 1943 of a petrified young Jewish boy in the Warsaw Ghetto. In a conversation with Shifting Vision, the artist elaborated on his process, and how he sees his work in relation to history, time, humanity, and immortality.
‘Mon enfant’ was created for Adel Abdessemed’s 2014 exhibition ‘Mon enfant’ in Dvir Gallery in Tel Aviv
Wilde, Geneva presents a new solo show ‘Description d’un combat’ by Adel Abdessemed. The first time Adel Abdessemed worked with printed sheet metal – the metal used for food tins
and cans containing dangerous substances – was in 2005, for a small work of art that was never
exhibited, Monsieur Poulet, based on the 1974 film “Cocorico Monsieur Poulet” (Cock-a-doodledoo! Mister Chicken), by the filmmaker and French anthropologist Jean Rouch.
After the series of sculptures Queen Mary II, 2007, and the big series of Mappemondes, 2010 –
2014, the artist began in 2016 the Cocorico series of paintings, in progress to this day, made from
the same recycled printed metal, with each part functioning as an unique work. Indeed, apart from
the formal similarity that characterizes these works, each work has its own pictorial beauty and
Abdessemed addresses the art of painting in a direct fashion. And yet, the words he places in
each painting are neither titles, nor comments, nor even slogans that stand out on the pictorial
background, but rather side notes in the margin where chance plays an evocative role.
Daniel Birnbaum writes, in the exhibition catalogue to be published in the autumn of 2020: With
Cock-a-doodle-doo, I’m drawn-in, beckoned into something intriguing. It’s not so much the
industrial approach and detachment from the production of the works, or the artist’s attempt to
reduce “creation” to chance and collective mechanics, but rather the transparency of his method.
These are not paintings produced by an embodied subject. The subject in question would require
countless hands. When I look at these shiny, beautiful surfaces, I can’t help visualizing the frenetic
activity of the artist trying not to lose control. I see him first as a spider, then as an octopus, and
then as Edward Scissorhands. In any case, the artist cannot be fully human. The paintings are
produced by a multitude. They are the filth and luxury of a globalized economy, unnecessary
spending, the waste of the world.
The works in the series are bold and yet seductive, like invitation cards. The tradition of making
visually appealing souvenirs from scrap metal is widespread in North Africa where Adel
Abdessemed produces all of these works, in his workshop in Fez, Morocco.