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Galerie Rabouan Moussion exhibits works by Mehdi-Georges Lahlou
Of the confused memory (2015), print on glass, metal, 140 x 140 x 7 cm.

PARIS.- If we need to talk about Mehdi-Georges Lahlou’s origins, it is because they are at the core of his work. This Franco-Moroccan artist plays to unbraid his genealogy in order to underline its melting pot, and he does that with cleverness. His Moroccan roots influence his choices in matter of themes to approach and materials and motives to employ. He enjoys confusing the codes associating images that evoke pity, wether Catholic or Muslim: Virgins with Child in mashrabiyas, prayer stools, stained-glass windows with Maghreb soldiers… In a larger extent, he interrogates on the permanence of cults and cultures, doomed to disappear but still subsisting thanks to the works that remain, as traces and signs allowing us to conceive them in spirit.

Carried in the beginning of his career by the gender studies and pushing his own body to the limit during performances, he enlarges today this issue to the deconstruction of cultural stereotypes. Mehdi-Georges, whose composed name is already a sign of a double cultural identity, places himself as model and subject of study at once, declining his image through a multiplicity of busts. Playing with the codes to the limits of cliché - chickpeas, couscous grains and tajines as favorite materials - Mehdi-Georges Lahlou places the spectator in an ambiguous position of view, questioning him on his own expectations about the bipolar context that emerges, between Orient and Occident, male and female, Catholic and Muslim. In this way, the artist introduces a more general questioning on the cultural construction of the stereotype, this preconceived opinion, accepted without reflection or critical sense and that determines his ways of thinking, feeling and acting.

The choice of such particular materials, often perishable foodstuff, refers equally to the issue of the permanence of his work and through this one, of our cultures. As a matter of fact, as greek statuary nourished Renaissance, we still have to find what will survive us, which will be the traces that will resist to the time of History. Of the stigmas of the War of 14-18 carried by the Algerians Zouaves and the Moroccan military division, it remains some familiar memories and some photographic negatives. What would we know about our origines if the works we refer to had not passed through the ages?

print on glass, metal
 ± 140 x 140 x 7 cm

In his undermining of common spaces and other established beliefs, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou replaced these religious figures with military ones but, once again, these were not just any figures. These are images of Moroccan armed division and Algerian Zouaves, chosen because of their status as populations colonized by France in the 19th century. In 1914, they were brought out and compelled to fight on the front lines and in the trenches “for the motherland.” Needless to say, it was necessary for an artist of Franco-Moroccan origin, like Mehdi-Georges Lahlou, to search, select and employ these documents and types of representations. It is a novel way for him to subtly denounce a certain form of colonization and, most of all, its consequences for the relevant populations, which would otherwise be completely excluded from this conflict.

Glass sculpture
 47 x 26 x 22 cm

Looking at The Leftovers Oriental Blue, one cannot avoid thinking of the classical busts of the Antiquity. Fallen into disfavour in Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire, ancient sculp- ture was rediscovered not early than during the Italian Renaissance. The forms, full of realism, and abandoned for centuries, transported through the time the image of a lost civilization, pro- voking fantasies and illusions. In The Leftovers Oriental Blue, MehdiGeorges Lahlou creates a fictitious heritage of a certain civilization. He distorts the initial codes of the Ancient sculpture, and our expectations. Thus, we are confronted to the bust of the artist, rather its remains, made in an unusual material and once tinted in oriental blue. The colour, sometimes also called ultrama- rine (from the Latin ultramarinus, “beyond the sea”), is identified with the Orient: it has literally come to Europe from beyond the sea, as it was first imported from the mines of Afghanistan in the 14th-15th century. The bust is laid down. If we look closer, we can slightly distinguish the oriental ornament of mashrabiya on its bottom part, while the rest demonstrates the imprints of time. Bringing together all these elements, the artist questions the image and the representation. He interrogates the perception of civilizations and cultures, as those of the Ancient empires, the Orient and the Occident, and nourish phantasms about them. He imagines a hybrid culture that connects seemingly incompatible elements: the classical sculpture, the oriental blue, mashrabiya and the artist’s portrait, made in glass. A “classical” bust in blue may also surprise one’s eye, but as we accurately know today, the ancient sculptures, at the time, were bright-coloured. A fact that escapes us due to the images we’re used to, allows Mehdi-Georges Lahlou to highlight the conditionality of our regard.

Series of 15 collages of different sizes

At a first interpretation, this series seems putting together Madonnas made of sculpted wood with birds of multicolor patterns. It is in fact a mix of elements coming from Catholic and Muslim cultures : The Conference of the Birds is a classic of medieval Persan literature. This collection of poems recounts the epic venture of thirty thousand birds searching for their sovereign, allegory of the spiritual quest towards God’s wisdom. thanks to photomontage, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou confuses the spectator and seems pointing out the similarities common to all religions - whatever her appearance is, the essence of spirituality is the same : a suction to make the Mankind better.

JANNAH (2016)
chick peas, plant, rope, resine epoxy

120 x 45 x 30 cm

This piece recalls a recurring motif in mehdi-Georges Lahlou’s work : his self portrait in bust shape. Once again the title is questioning us : Jannah is a word meaning at the same time Paradise and garden of Eden, therefore a symbolic place reserved to believers. The artist in bust is posing as a totem made of chickpeas, surmounted by a thick rope and a vegetable headdress - allegory of the spiritual quest or mischievous assemblage making fun of the image of the good believer ? The spectator is the only judge.

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