New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives opens in Concrete, Alserkal Avenue

September 21, 2020

Curated by Zamân Books & Curating, the exhibition showcases never-before-seen artworks and archive material documenting an influential moment in the MEASA region’s art history.

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Photography by Angelo Jandri. Courtesy Alserkal.

Curated by Zamân Books & Curating, the exhibition showcases never-before-seen artworks and archive material documenting an influential moment in the MEASA region’s art history.

In the spirit of Mohamed Melehi’s Asilah Festival of public art, world-renowned artist eL Seed painted a Melehi-inspired mural with the public in Alserkal Avenue. The Alserkal Arts Foundation exhibition New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives opened in Alserkal Avenue on 19 September, retracing the pioneering Moroccan artist’s career chronologically, and telling the story of the radical Casablanca Art School. Curated by Zamân Books & Curating, New Waves runs in the OMA-designed Concrete until 21 November.

Melehi is widely regarded as a major figure of post-colonial Moroccan art and of transnational modernism. Previously unseen works and archives present Melehi as a painter, photographer, muralist, graphic and urban designer, art teacher, and cultural activist.

This retrospective exhibition brings a pioneering artist’s multi-faceted career to life, giving UAE audiences a unique insight into a practice that feels critical and relevant for contemporary concerns in this region. The Dubai chapter of the exhibition, which opened during Alserkal Lates, presents Melehi’s documentary photography - through his travels, and activism - as well as highlights from his graphic design studio SHOOF, and the remarkable murals of the Asilah festival.

This expanded research allows new insight into the experimental spirit of the Casablanca Art School as they challenged convention, and collaborated to produce radical forms of pedagogy and exhibition-making, bringing the artist out from the studio into the streets and public squares of Morocco. It also explores Melehi’s in-depth engagement with Afro-Berber art and craft through the collection of Bert Flint, from which he drew artistic inspiration.

Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal and of Alserkal Arts Foundation, says: “New Waves is an expression of an ‘invisible history’ that has shaped the MEASA region both intellectually and aesthetically. This presentation to international audiences in Dubai furthers our commitment as a Foundation, and as a family, to keep such artistic legacies alive.”

The Dubai presentation of New Waves in Concrete includes a recently archived collection of Melehi’s documentary photography—over 30 years of artistic travel and visual activism journeys—as well as highlights from the golden age of the Asilah festival. The Festival, co-founded by Melehi in 1978, gathered avant-garde artists from Africa, Asia, and Arab countries.

In the spirit of Melehi’s impulse to free visual art from the gallery and bring painting into the public realm, the exhibition extends into Alserkal Avenue. Inspired by the Asilah Festival, world-renowned artist eL Seed invited the public to paint a mural with him in Alserkal Avenue, where his studio is based, that pays tribute to Melehi’s work. The artwork is a quote from Mohamed Melehi that reads: “Any type of art you see, if you used it as a way of communication, a way of awakening attitudes, it could help broaden minds.”

In Alserkal Avenue’s The Yard, an adapted re-creation of a mural from the first Asilah Moussem Festival of the Arts in 1978 was painted by students from Zayed University, in collaboration with Jotun paints.

The exhibition also reveals Melehi’s key role in the development of art pedagogy and experimental practices in Morocco, as well as his significant work in graphic design and mural painting, which has contributed heavily in shaping the aesthetics of significant artistic networks and political causes throughout the Maghreb and the Pan-Arab alliances.

The travelling exhibition and the Dubai iteration marks the first time that the full period of Melehi’s works has been shown on a global stage.

A full ‘catalogue’ and guide are available virtually, allowing visitors to explore the exhibition through texts, videos, and audio, and engage in its accompanying public programme. To see a 360° virtual exhibition, and interviews with the curator and artist, visit alserkal.online.

Public Programme

Alserkal Arts Foundation is hosting a public programme in line with the exhibition, including a workshop entitled “Ripple Effects: Legacies of Radical Pedagogy in the Art School”, taking place on 26 September on alserkal.online; and a screening of the documentary film MELEHI in Alserkal Avenue, with a simultaneous online broadcast on 7 October, followed by a conversation between Melehi and documentary film-maker Shalom Gorewitz with curator Morad Montazami on alserkal.online.

New Waves is open to all, with audiences able to book their visit in line with social-distancing guidelines. New Waves was originally scheduled to open on 23 March 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives is presented by Alserkal Arts Foundation. Curated by Zamân Books & Curating, the original exhibition was produced by The Mosaic Rooms, A.M. Qattan Foundation. This exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL).

With additional thanks to JOTUN, and our logistics partner Crown Fine Art.


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For press enquiries:
press@alserkal.online


EDITOR'S NOTES

About Alserkal Arts Foundation
The Alserkal Arts Foundation is a non-profit that extends Alserkal’s mission to support cultural production. The Foundation offers opportunities for research and artistic production to cultural practitioners and researchers with strong regional or contemporary relevance who challenge conventional disciplinary boundaries. Through its initiatives, which include support for artistic projects, research grants, alternative learning, and artist residencies at purpose-built studios located in the heart of Alserkal Avenue, the Foundation seeks to incubate creative thinking that contributes to the region’s cultural sphere, leading to new forms of knowledge. Alserkal Arts Foundation is supported by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Ahmad Bin Eisa Alserkal and the Alserkal family.

About Alserkal
Alserkal is a socially responsible and forward-thinking cultural enterprise dedicated to developing sustainable models for homegrown initiatives and to supporting narratives and research emerging from the Global South. Founded in 2007 by Emirati businessman and patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Alserkal is renowned for its ground-breaking artistic productions, experimental approach and for the creation of culturally meaningful spaces that inspire and shape communities. Alserkal has three primary areas of activity: cultivating a creative economy in Dubai and building a collaborative network of civic cultural institutions through its renowned cultural district, Alserkal Avenue; providing advisory services to public and private sector entities; and, supporting public artist commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes through its non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation.

Alserkal has transformed the cultural landscape of Dubai and the UAE through the creation of a thriving, region-specific community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers and entrepreneur-led businesses at Alserkal Avenue, providing an essential platform for the development of creative industries in the region.

Alserkal utilizes its collective expertise in arts initiatives and cultural production, heritage creation, community building and engagement, as well as urbanism and planning for creative industries, to guide public and private sector entities in developing sustainable and responsive business models.

About Alserkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue is a vibrant cultural district in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, and is home to a community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, home-grown and entrepreneur-led businesses, and community spaces across 500,000 sqft and 90 warehouses. Alserkal Avenue provides an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates. As one of the region’s foremost destinations for contemporary art, and home to Dubai’s risk-takers, makers and wide-ranging creative communities, Alserkal Avenue provides cultural experiences for local, regional and international audiences through its extensive year-round programming. Alserkal Avenue is home to Concrete, a multi-disciplinary exhibitions space conceptualised and programmed by Alserkal, as well as the artist residency program of Alserkal’s non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation. Alserkal Avenue was established in 2007 by Alserkal following the visionary thinking of its founder, Emirati businessman and cultural patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, who sought to cultivate a vibrant creative community and support cultural production in Dubai.