News

25 February 2015

THE AL-AZZAWI EPIC . New York. The Armory Show 2015.

THE AL-AZZAWI EPIC .
by Emmanuel Daydé

America was astonished by the avant-garde art it discovered at the first International Exhibition of Modern Art, known as The Armory Show, in New York that took place in 1913. Re-emerging from its ashes in 1999, the most important fair of contemporary art in New York no longer surprises anyone yet it unveils today the scope of Arab modernity, with Dia Al-Azzawi at its front line.

1112 artworks were showcased at the 1913 Armory Show, amongst which the Nu descendant un escalier by Marcel Duchamp that caused an outrage and hence was immediately renamed « Explosion dans une fabrique de tuiles » by an art critic. When Anglo-Egyptian Omar Kholeif was asked to curate the 2015 edition of the Armory Show, it offered the opportunity to the entire Middle East, North Africa and Mediterranean countries to create a new sensation as they brutally found themselves in the spotlight.

The Iraqi artist from London, Dia Al-Azzawi, with his hair like a lion’s mane, could be accepted there as the Picasso of the East. This pioneer of contemporary Arab art is majestically represented by the Parisian Claude Lemand Gallery. He is not only well-known for his vibrant black and white polyptych depicting the Massacre of Sabra and Chatila, but also for his more quiet works that were inspired by the Gulf war.

Al-Azzawi worked for a long time with antiquities in Iraq and was hence fully committed, with a joyful tone despite everything, to source his inspiration from his country’s memories and culture to challenge time and humans. He fuses the slender Sumerian and Babylonian shapes to the desert roses sliced by sedimentation, and borrows his bright colours from the kilims of the women from Southern Iraq and from the wise lay-out of Arab miniature paintings.

His everlasting and saturated painting crystallizes the space, frequently prompting us to blink our eyes in front of it, as if blinded by the desert’s sun. In the Mesopotamian era, Gilgamesh told his friend Enkidu, « Despise death, just focus on life ! ». Like the legendary King of Uruk who did not accept death, Dia Al-Azzawi denounces the vanity of all passionate quests for immortality by tracing signs and by bringing steles into the future perfect. With his open indifference towards abstract or figurative art, the slender figures tangled in Enkidu meets the Great Courtisane of 1987 echo the canvas riddled by bullets of The Target as well as the body parts, such as the arm, leg or horse’s head, torn from the monumental triptych The Wounded Soul of 2014.

Nonetheless, just like Francis Bacon, « the figurative aspect is rendered more violent and more poignant for the nervous system » by abstracting his tragic figuration on a plain blood-red background. In that way, Al-Azzawi transposes his totemic sculpture of the wounded horse of the imam Hussein, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, who was assassinated in Karbala, Iraq. Resonating the dignity retained in a Passion of Christ, The Wounded Soul refers to the extinction of Iraqi intellectuals. Hussein’s horse, a popular and religious symbol, with his large Sumerian eye, weeps for Iraq, a terror-stricken country of burnt land.

The disasters of war, that are chopped up by an impossible abstraction, as depicted by the young artist Ahmed Al Soudani, would have never existed without Al-Azzawi’s raging art. The artist reminds us that « archeologists find it useful to preserve and save everything that remains, rather than reconstructing everything ». Al-Azzawi the magnificent dedicates his art to safeguarding these last days of humanity.

Claude Lemand is presenting Dia Al-Azzawi at The Armory Show 2015, Pier 94, New-York, from March 5 to 8.

Translated from French by Valérie Hess.

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12 June 2017

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7 August 2016

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24 February 2016

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30 September 2015

MAHJOUB BEN BELLA, WORKS ON PAPER. La Piscine Museum, Roubaix, France. 24 OCTOBER 2015 - 31 JANUARY 2016

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25 February 2015

THE AL-AZZAWI EPIC . New York. The Armory Show 2015.

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GERD LANGE DESIGN. In the Context of Serial production. 1962-2007.

3 July 2014

ISSOUDUN - Musée de l’Hospice Saint Roch - Conversation between Claude Lemand and Tom Laurent - Art Absolument - July 2014

21 May 2014

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8 May 2014

ETEL ADNAN AND THE ARAB MODERNITY .

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16 October 2013

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5 March 2013

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20 May 2011

Spring in Paris, next year in Beirut.

Copyright © Galerie Claude Lemand 2012.

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