Adel Abdessemed (1971, Constantine, Algeria) is a prominent figure of the international art scene.
From drawing to video, from sculpture to installation, Adel probes in the wounds of our present. His work has been the subject, during the last thirty years, of numerous major solo exhibitions, at MoMA PS1 in New York, MIT List Art Center in Cambridge (Massachusetts), Magasin — Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble, at Parasol Unit in London, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, Musée national d’Art Moderne — Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris for a retrospective, Adel Abdessemed. Je suis Innocent (2012), CAC in Málaga, or at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal. Two major monographic exhibitions take place in 2018: Otchi Tchiornie at the Musée du Grand-Hornu in Belgium, and L’Antidote at the MAC Lyon.
Adel Abdessemed’s work has been presented at four Venice Biennales (2003, 2007, 2011, 2015), where he received the Benesse Prize (2007), at two Biennales in Istanbul (2007, 2017), and in the Biennales of Havana (2009), Gwangju (2008), Lyon (2007), and São Paulo (2006).
In 2010, he participated in the first Triennale in Aichi, in 2017 at the Triennale of Milan and at the Triennale Oku-Noto in Suzu (Japan). In 2018 he participated at the Triennale Echigo-Tsumari Art. On the same year, he also took part in the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, where he exhibited a series of photographs and sculptures curated by Jean Nouvel. In 2015 he directed the scenography and light of Retour à Berratham, during the Avignon Festival, for the choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. In 2016, he was invited to drawn the poster for the Avignon Festival and to create his project Sur- faces . At the same time, the organization Bold Tendencies commissioned the work Bristow as part of its artistic program in Peckham (London). He maintains a collaboration with creators from all fields, like poetry (two books created with Adonis, and many with Hélène Cixous) or architecture (Jalousies. Complicités avec Jean Nouvel, in the Collection Lambert at the Musée de Vence, in 2015).
Recently, the three-volume monograph came out, Works 1988-2015, published by Koenig Books, bringing together the catalogue of nearly 30 years of creation. Adel Abdessemed has always been fascinated by the material from which his work will be produced. The matter, the material being used, is an essential part of his acts. Adel questions the meaning of the images he produces using different materials and boosts not only its properties, but also the cultural and historical features that make up the material: From wool to hashish, from aircraft fuselages to terracotta, from marbles to barbed wire, from knives and scalpel blades to metals: steel, bronze, aluminium, copper, gold, from glass to taxidermy animals, from ivory to Siwa salt, from gum to camel bone, from porcelain to jade, from rocks to uncooked clay, from plaster to plastiline, from resins to military tarps, etc. When Adel was a child, he painted. He mainly focused on drawing and painting, but also created small sculptures made from little pieces of recycled metal. He left aside painting as he arrived in France, where he started deeply exploring the possibilities the matter can offer. Painting however, has always been omnipresent, as he says, “his eye is always painting”.
It was in 2005 when Adel first worked with cans and printed metal plates, used for a small piece that was never exhibited whose title was Monsieur Poulet, taken form the film Cocorico Monsieur Poulet, 1974, from the French filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouche. Only after producing the series of sculptures from Queen Mary II (2007), and the great series Mappemondes (2010 – 2014), does he start the Cocorico Paintings, a work still being developed. This series refers directly to the millennial history of painting, appearing in each piece phrases that aren’t titles or comments, much less slogans placed on a pictorial background, but rather side notes where chance plays its soul evocative role.
Adel has always been attracted by the words he uses as essential components of certain works from his neon lights Exit, 1996 -2009, to Thanks Facebook, 2012, or in this seminal work which was The Birth of Mohammed Karlpolpot, 1999.
For this exhibition Adel adopts poetic and cultural Spanish references starting with the work entitled SEGUIDILLA, which is both a traditional form that characterizes Spanish poetry or a typical song from Spanish folklore of Andalusian origin. Eran las cinco en todos lo relojes, title of the exhibition, is an extract from the poem La cogida y la muerte by Federico García Lorca. The poem talks about the death of the Spanish bullfighter Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, a writer and an intellectual, member of the Generación del 27 and great friend of the poet. Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes is a verse by Jorge Guillén that introduces Lorca’s sad and beautiful poem Tu infancia en Menton, which evokes a lost love and an irretrievable childhood. He also takes verses from La vida es sueño by Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1635), a play that questions the duality between reality and dream.To complete the exhibition, two different types of shears that were used to cut veneer from the Cocorico Paintings are now completely camouflaged in acid colors, one in cyan blue and the other in lemon yellow. The tool becomes a work of art.