NEW YORK, NY.- Taymour Grahne Gallery
presents Kesh Angels, a solo exhibition of work by the Moroccan-born, UK-based artist, Hassan Hajjaj. Marking the artists first exhibition in New York, Kesh Angels presents a unique take on the vibrant street culture of Morocco and pays tribute to the biker culture of the young women of Marrakesh in a series of photographs, limited edition objects, an installation, and a video.
Hajjajs work plays with and upends stereotypes, the power of branding, and the familiarity of everyday objects, applying a street-wise approach to his layering of influences, items, and cultural signifiers to imbue the work with an electrifying tension. His confident, upbeat portraits of young women wearing veils and djellabah while posing on motorcycles subvert preconceived notions of Arab women; his subjects are traditionally clad but defiantly modern, bearing bright smiles and the markers of youth, independence, celebration, and fun. As Kelly Carmichael writes in her 2010 essay in Contemporary Practices, Hajjajs approach is to toy with the perceptions of Arabic culture and the relationship between East and West, recasting iconic images and allowing shafts of 21st century light to reenergize the encounter
[while] his practice on inclusion and contrast rarely offers just one aesthetic of theoretical opinion.¹
Borrowing from the tradition of African studio photography and the glossy aesthetic of the fashion shoot, Hajjajs work combines the personal with the political, the individuality of his subjects framed by consumer goods and adorned with the trappings of culture and branding. The handcrafted inlaid wood frames are made up of quotidian branded objects like soda cans and Moroccan packaging, mixing old and new, both responding to and completing the works they surround.
The exhibition is also accompanied by a book on the last decade of Hajjajs work, published jointly by Taymour Grahne Gallery and Rose Issa Projects, London. Concurrently, the artists three-channel video installation My Rock Stars, Volume I (2012) is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, through 20 July, 2014. The work, which features performances by international musicians wearing clothes designed by Hajjaj, is a recent acquisition by the museum.
Hassan Hajjaj left Morocco for London at an early age. Heavily influenced by the hip-hop, reggae, and club scenes of London as well as by his North African heritage, Hajjaj is a self-taught and thoroughly versatile artist whose work includes portraiture, installation, performance, fashion, and interior design, including furniture made from recycled utilitarian objects from North Africa, such as upturned Coca-Cola crates as stools and aluminum cans turned into lamps. Kesh Angels features an installation of his furniture in the lower gallery, completely transforming the space into one of the artists signature lounges.
Hajjaj was the winner of the 2011 Sovereign Middle East and Africa Prize, and was shortlisted for Victoria & Albert Museums Jameel Prize for Islamic Art in 2009. His solo exhibitions have been held at The Third Line, Dubai; Rose Issa Projects, London; Freies Museum, Berlin, as well as group exhibitions such as The Marrakesh Art Biennale; Edge of Arabia, London; Photoqua, Paris; and Re-orientations at Rose Issa Projects, among others. His work is in the collections of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Farjam Collection, Dubai; Institut des Cultures dIslam, Paris; Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunisia; Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, VA, and more. The artist lives and works between London, UK and Marrakesh, Morocco.