In ART, Selections Guided Tour

Take a look at singular art pieces from the mid to late 20th century.
New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives in Concrete, presented by the Alserkal Arts Foundation, is a group exhibition retracing a body of work produced between the 1950s and ‘80s, at a time when Moroccan modernism was booming.

The exhibition presents a collection of Melehi’s colourful arrangements in what is being billed as one of the artist’s most important retrospectives to date. Melehi, an avid painter, photographer, muralist, graphic and urban designer, art teacher and cultural activist, achieved notoriety for capturing the golden age of the Asilah Festival, which he co-founded in 1978 in a small town on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, south of Tangiers.

Mohamed Melehi, Sleeping Manhattan, 1962. Acrylic on canvas, Private collection. Courtesy of Alserkal Arts Foundation.
Mohamed Melehi, Sleeping Manhattan, 1962. Acrylic on canvas, Private collection. Courtesy of Alserkal Arts Foundation.

Melehi is a major figure of post-colonial Moroccan art and Arab modernism, and this exhibit includes a number of previously neverbefore- seen works and archives that present the artist’s diverse and far-ranging practice in a new light. “My question was, what could we find in Morocco that was an expression of modernism?”

“My question was, what could we find in Morocco that was an expression of modernism?”

Originally displayed at The Mosaic Rooms in London in 2019 and then at MACAAL in Marrakech through January 2020, the exhibition of New Waves at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai highlights Meheli’s role as an interlocutor to artists from across Africa, Asia and other Arab countries.

New Waves, MACAAL, 2019 - © Omar Tajmouati
New Waves, MACAAL, 2019 - © Omar Tajmouati

Between 1964 and 1974, Melehi and his cohorts became a tightly knit community of artists who supported themselves through radical approaches to art education, which ultimately led them to form what became known as the Casablanca Fine Art School.

There, Melehi developed experimental classes that combined collective knowledge production with hands-on practical experience in art-making, using pedagogy as scaffolding in which to encourage students to look beyond Western art history for inspiration.

Mohamed Melehi, Wilde, 1963. Acrylic on canvas, Private collection. Courtesy of Alserkal Arts Foundation.
Mohamed Melehi, Wilde, 1963. Acrylic on canvas, Private collection. Courtesy of Alserkal Arts Foundation.

Wave Motif… Untitled (1980) 
Mohamed Melehi After returning from a group show in the United States at the MoMA in 1963, Melehi began to infuse the hard edge of colourful abstractions with Arabic calligraphy. Melehi also often worked outdoors, encouraging his students to go on field trips to study Berber crafts and architecture.

Mohamed Melehi, Untitled, (1980). Cellulose paint on wood, 84 x 84. Image courtesy of Loft Gallery and The Mosaic Rooms.
Mohamed Melehi, Untitled, (1980). Cellulose paint on wood, 84 x 84. Image courtesy of Loft Gallery and The Mosaic Rooms.

Moroccan Modernism… Solar Nostalgia (1962), by Mohamed Melehi.
As his work developed, however, rather than employing the craft traditions of the ancient medina, Melehi starting using industrial materials that were easily accessible by the working class, including car paint instead of his usual acrylic.

Mohamed Melehi, Untitled, 1962. Acrylic on canvas, Private collection. Courtesy of Alserkal Arts Foundation.
Mohamed Melehi, Untitled, 1962. Acrylic on canvas, Private collection. Courtesy of Alserkal Arts Foundation.

New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives in Concrete is on display at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai until April 4, 2020. 

Feature caption: Mohamed Melehi, Untitled, 1970-1971. Cellulose paint on wood, Private Collection. Courtesy of Alserkal Arts Foundation.

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