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 Hassan Hajjaj

September 7 – October 28, 2017


projects+gallery is pleased to announce the public opening of an exhibition of work by Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj. The exhibition will also feature new work by Saint Louis artist Basil Kincaid.

Known as the "Andy Warhol of Marrakesh," Hassan Hajjaj thrives in a space between cultures, traditions, mediums, and artistic movements. His images vibrate with an energy unique to the contemporary clashes that emerge from a world inundated with global consumption and ever-changing shifts in style. Born in Morocco in 1961, the artist relocated to London in the early 1980s, growing up within the reggae and hip-hop club scenes that defined the underground urban environment. Currently traveling between Morocco and the United Kingdom, Hajjaj endeavors to document the hybrid music, fashion and artistic spirit of both places. 

I'm inspired by the street and I try to create something contemporary that identifies with the Arab world, but feels international. –Hassan Hajjaj

During his childhood, Hajjaj began to create recycled objects from everyday items. He carried this practice into his work designing the spaces of basement soul and hip-hop clubs in London, culminating in the founding of his own London boutique, Rap, in he late 1980s. Through Rap, Hajjaj sold designer streetwear, while being able to explore his own fashion and interior design, which continued to incorporate the recycled North African consumer goods that had always inspired him. Becoming introduced to photography at this time, Hajjaj found the ideal platform to merge his interest in fashion, design, music and contemporary art. 

The subjects of his portrait photography range from underground musicians to friends and strangers he encounters on the street. Remixing traditional Moroccan floor mat textiles with flashy neo-dandy street fashion, the artist mashes up patterns and colors that overwhelm the eye and recall the organized chaos of the urban Moroccan marketplace. Beyond the use of the bright Moroccan floor mats in the photograph, the artist furthers his exploration of materials, channeling Andy Warhol and other Pop artists in his weaving of mundane mass-produced consumables, like soda cans and food seasoning packages, directly into the custom made frame itself. Taking a holistic approach to the creation and experience of his artwork, Hajjaj pays homage to the craft traditions that flourished in North Africa, seen in the inclusion of Moroccan textiles in both the photograph and the frame, while juxtaposing these traditions with glimpses of contemporary street style and commercial consumption that are driven by international cultural exchange. With portraits that nod to the work of earlier African artists Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keita, framed both physically and conceptually by the textures and objects that make up the contemporary Moroccan urban environment, Hajjaj subverts Western preconceptions of the Arab world, confronting the consumerism that has appropriated and forever changed traditional craft production. 

The work of Saint Louis artist Basil Kincaid also creates a conversation with contemporary and traditional craft. In his new series of work consisting of quilted pieces that the artist constructs on a wooden frame, Kincaid connects with his personal heritage and a larger cultural history. His family has practiced the art of quilting for the last 100 years, and the artist cites his paternal grandmother Eugenia Kincaid, with whom he collaborates on his work at a spiritual level, as his most immediate influence. In textile paintings that are at once tactile, ancestral and strikingly contemporary, the artist builds layered narratives that reflect upon the construction of perception and collective experience. Stylistically, Kincaid draws from Black American and West African  folk and fine art, poetry and music, patching together small pieces of fabric with disparate patterns and colors, to create a unity and rhythm between the past and the present, the craft and commercial, and the personal and universal. 

HASSAN HAJJAJ will open at projects+gallery from 5 - 8 pm on Thursday, September 7th and is free to the public. The exhibition will be on view at projects+gallery until Saturday, October 28th, 2017.