Monday, 25 October 2010

Adel Abdessemed -Parasol unit

That Adel Abdessemed was not courted by British Institutions before now is no reflection of either his work, which is exceptional, or his position in the art world, as an internationally recognised artist. Thanks go the Parasol Unit for being the first UK institution to feature his work in a solo exhibition running from the 22nd of September to the 21st of November. Entitled Silent Warriors, the exhibition is indicative of the diversity of his practice, which unfurls through photography, sculpture, video, installation and drawing. As one enters the large space of the Parasol Unit one is confronted at once with the vast figure of flying skeleton Habibi, 2003 - prostrate on the threshold, in transit between life and death as it hangs from the gallery’s ceiling, an aeroplane propeller tickling its toes - and the haunting metallic sound of Music Box, 2009 - a music box made of a metal cylinder punctured with metal screws which plays as it revolves an excerpt from Wagner’s Die Walk├╝re (The Valkyrie). That Abdessemed’s practice is one of action rather than scripted performance is made clear with the two video pieces Enter the Circle, 2009 in which the artist draws a vast circle whilst hanging upside down from a hovering helicopter, and ALSO SPRACH ALLAH, 2008 in which the artist inscribes the words Also Sprach Allah to a carpet like cloth suspended to a ceiling, reaching the ceiling by the force of a circle of men throwing him in the air repeatedly with a sheet of cloth. Whilst Enter the Circle is silent and continuous, ALSO SPRACH ALLAH is a staccato of marks, cries and grunts as the men submit to the effort of the task. However, both drawn outcomes exhibited hint at the physicality of the mark making exercise. Unfortunately therefore, the exhibition is dominated by Habibi and Silent Warrior especially, which covers three walls of the upstairs gallery. Perhaps is it because of the space allocated to this repetitive instillation – which overshadows therefore the rather more puzzling Moscow, (five sisters) 2010, an instillation of pairs of ice skates made from hand blown glass - that the show as a whole fails to communicate the ebullience, the furious energy that defines Abdessemed’s best work.

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