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Rockbund Art Museum presents Adel Abdessemed: An Imperial Message

July 16–September 11, 2022

Adel Abdessemed explores the scars of the present. His work, which includes drawing, video, sculpture, poetry, sound, and installation, develops as a potent encounter of diametrically opposed elements. The exhibition, which is titled An Imperial Message after Franz Kafka’s little story, includes over 40 works by the artist, more than 10 of which are brand-new. Together, the pieces on display carve out an introspective journey, encouraging viewers to consider the violence that permeates the modern society we live in and confront their own intense emotions, fears, and wants.

Abdessemed, who was born in Algeria in 1971, currently resides and works in Paris, France. The artist creates pieces that are heavily influenced by power dynamics. He is a fervent defender of the fundamental values of humanity, such as love, compassion, and hope, as shown by both his character and his body of work. Our systematic desensitization to violent acts is suppressed by Abdessemed’s works through evocative but subtle experience. By doing this, the artist demonstrates his exceptional talent at bringing together the seemingly at odds emotions of tenderness and shock.

As Larys Frogier, Director of Rockbund Art Museum, puts: “Adel Abdessemed has a unique position in contemporary art, and the way he touches those who engage his works has virtually no equivalent. That effect lies in his unique use of raw, simple materials and words, as well as straightforward but very subtle fabrication of the image, but also in the way his works revisit some of the historical and theoretical assumptions in the contemporary arts.”

However, Adel Abdessemed’s art is more than just straightforward accounts of trauma. The power of life is at the heart of how trauma is portrayed. A recent series of substantial charcoal drawings serves as the exhibition’s starting point. The series, dubbed Air, depicts human body models floating in the paper emptiness in various poses, depicting distinct falling moments.

The music descends the steps after us. Die Taubenpost is the name of the artwork that occupies the fourth and fifth floors (The Homing Pigeon). Franz Schubert wrote it toward the end of his life, and it was released after his passing. Abdessemed’s video alludes to this work by showing a pigeon standing silently on a metal fence in front of a shadowy background. In front of the movie is a nine-meter-long painting under the name of Alger Alger. Between the wide variety of reds are hidden black lines and patterns. The musical staves are these. Alger Alger is actually a tribute to Lili Boniche’s energetic hit song of the same name. The lyrics depict an exiled guy who is missing and thinking of the city and his family. It also mirrors the artist’s departure from and deep attachment to his hometown of Algiers, where influential poets, musicians, and resistants were (and still are) very active and vigorous.  

A video work, Un Chat noir passe entre nous (A Cat Passing in between Us), welcomes visitors to the third floor. The “eyes / I” of the black cat, who is able to see perfectly in the dark space, is gazing at the “eyes / I” of the visitors, immersing the visitors in darkness. Echoing the homing pigeon and the wandering black cat, a video on the second floor, Politics of the Studio, Nelson, shows a massive white bull standing in the artist’s studio. The bull’s eyes are alert as it tries to find a position in an unfamiliar space. The same floor also presents the artist’s representative large-scale works, including sculptural work Eran las cinco en todos los relojes (It Was Five on All Clocks) and “Cocorico,” an ongoing painting series began in 2016. The artist flattens and reassembles metal cans discarded in the ocean, landfills, and streets to form specific colors and patterns.

An exhibition catalogue will include subjects including public domain, artistic strategy, and background through various mediums in addition to a number of open programs.

Rockbund Art Museum
No.20 Huqiu Road
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