SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Hosfelt Gallery
is presenting 17 new paintings by Algerian artist Driss Ouadahi in his fourth solo exhibition at the gallery. Ouadahi has developed a unique visual vocabulary - a synthesis of structural design and modernist grid painting - with which he examines social, political and psychological aspects of Modernist urbanity.
Ouadahi studied architecture before emigrating to Germany, where he learned to paint at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. The subjects of his paintings have included the public housing developments in Algiers that were modeled on France's low-income housing (in North Africa these behemoths accommodate displaced rural populations and in Europe house immigrants from former colonies) as well as meticulous renderings of chain-link fences. In both, he subverts the tradition of the lack of content in the minimalist grid painting to signify separation and alienation.
This exhibition of new paintings consists primarily of views from high-rise structures. The scenes are familiar - ringed by multi-story office or condominium buildings - but unidentifiable. They could depict Hong Kong, New York, Dubai or any of dozens of international financial centers. The viewer's vantage point is from high inside one of these edifices. Streets stretch into impossible distances or intersect at improbable angles. Towers jumble against one another. The outlook is a dizzying world composed of glittering light and reflections - abstracted, sanitized and homogenized by its remoteness.
Central to Ouadahi's exploration is perspective - the way meaning changes depending upon your position as a viewer. Are you on the inside looking out? Is the fence there to keep someone else out or you in? What is the difference between looking up from the bottom and looking down from the top? Driss Ouadahi's paintings are about boundaries. They're about the politics of class, religion and ethnicity. And they're about the failure of Western Modernism's promise to improve the lives of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.