Pioneer of Conceptual Art and Experimental Practice in the UAE Hassan Sharif in Exhibition at Alexander Gray Associates

March 25, 2016

Alexander Gray Associates is proud to present the latest work by the founding member of the Emirates Fine Art Society and the Art Atelier in the Dubai Youth Theater and Arts, Hassan Sharif. The exhibition will highlight the sculptures that focus on weaving as a metaphor for his recent political thought seen through the spectacles of ancient traditions. Considered a pioneer of conceptual art and experimental techniques in the United Arab Emirates in the last four decades, Hassan Sharif has gone beyond the limits of traditional structures of creating art by extending his oeuvre to performance, installation, illustration, painting, and assemblage that combines ordinary objects as the main medium. Hassan Sharif’s tapestry-like works displayed in this exhibition investigate the aesthetic concerns through color and they are conceptually connected by their relationship with the human body.

Hassan Sharif exhibition
Hassan Sharif - Cadmium Red, 2014

Hassan Sharif’s Influences and Creation

After becoming familiar with the notions of Dada and Fluxus art during his studies in the 1980s at Byam Shaw School of Art in London, Hassan Sharif has created performance-based artworks that tackled the themes of repetition, landscape, and the body. Sharif first included weaving into his creative process in his Objects series. It was a means of critical exploration of the modernization and industrialization in the United Arab Emirates. He has used cheap and mass-produced goods that he obtained at local art markets in Dubai, and by cutting, bending, braiding, and grouping these artifacts he has undermined their functionality to intensify their aesthetics and political noteworthiness. His works are the criticism of consumerism, the ever-growing concept that is taking over the whole world. He is at the same time the consumer and the producer, using the materials one buys because of their functionality to make art that has no practical use, but that screams and yells about the deteriorating values we seem to ignore. By using the ancient technique of tapestry, Sharif points our attention to the hyper-industrialization and the abandonment of old traditions that were once the integral part of building the strong bonds that connected the members of the communities in the past.

Hassan Sharif exhibition
Hassan Sharif - Combs, 2016

Hassan Sharif’s Weaving and Tapestries

With roots in conceptual performance, Sharif’s repetitive act of weaving reminds of the automatic functions of the human body, such as breathing, swallowing, and blinking. Each material he utilizes in his sculptures is related to an eroticized body in some way, mostly due to the fact that he touches them during the performative part of his creation. Hassan Sharif has used nail clippers, masks, combs, and gloves in this exhibition; all of them are the materials which literally touch, cover, or modify the human body, and he manages to show the connection between art and physical existence by using them.

In the more recent years, Sharif has dealt more with large-scale sculptures. In Masks (2016) he creates a grating of colorful face masks which are tied to one another by black ribbons to ultimately form an irregular edging at the bottom of the sculpture. The artist has stated that the masks have an important role in history. For example, in Africa, they are used in ritual dances to ward off evil spirits, in the Middle East women cover their faces and bodies with veils, which indicated to the fact that hiding the true identity has become very important. For Combs (2016), he has assembled colorful plastic combs which stick out of the walls at irregular angles. Sharif restates the geometric precision of the combs by organizing them in a diligent pattern in space, followed by a precise mathematical model that he invented himself, to create a hanging tapestry.

Hassan Sharif exhibition
Hassan Sharif - Masks, 2016

Hassan Sharif Exhibition at Alexander Gray Associates

Alexander Gray Associates, a contemporary art gallery in New York and a member of the Art Dealers Association of America will exhibit Hassan Sharif’s recent work from April 7th to May 14th, 2016. The opening reception is scheduled for Thursday, April 7th, from 6 PM to 8 PM. As with Sharif’s other exhibitions worldwide, such as those at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar, Whitechapel Gallery in London, New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the International Centre of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and many, many others, this exhibition will surely spark an interest of the viewers and the media and it will definitely remind us of some of the forgotten values of the past times we should incorporate into the modern lives we live.

All images courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York and © 2016 Hassan Sharif / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Featured image: Hassan Sharif - Seven Points Angular Lines - Part 2, 2013