Celebrating new wave of modernism in the region
Arserkal Arts Foundation is presenting ‘New Waves: Mohammad Melehi’ and the Casablanca Art School Archives, an exhibition that tells the story of the radical Casablanca Art School and highlights Melehi’s influence as a leading figure of modernism and postcolonial Moroccan art by tracing his career from the 1950s to the 1980s as a painter, photographer, muralist, graphic and urban designer, art educator, and cultural activist.
Melehi was born in Asilah, Morocco in 1936 and educated in Morocco, Europe and the US. He taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Casablanca from 1964 to 1969 and later cofounded a cultural journal, the publishing house Shoof, and an annual arts festival at Asilah known for its outdoor murals. He has also served as arts director and cultural consultant with Morocco’s Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs. The show’s title refers to the waves, which are a recurrent motif in Melehi’s abstract works and to the changes initiated by him and other artists from the Casablanca group.
Curated by Zaman Books & Curating, the exhibition was produced last year by The Mosaic Rooms in London and has travelled to the Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech. Its Dubai iteration also includes a recently archived collection of Melehi’s photographs from his travels as an artist and activist along with highlights from his graphic design studio, Shoof, and murals from the Asilah festival. With works that have never been exhibited before, the retrospective offers new insights into the experimental spirit of the Casablanca Art School that challenged convention and developed radical forms of pedagogy and exhibition making, bringing the artist from the studio into the streets and public squares of Morocco. It reveals Melehi’s key role in the development of art pedagogy and experimental practices in Morocco, as well as his significant contributions in shaping the aesthetics of artistic networks and political causes throughout the Maghreb and Arabian region. It also explores Melehi’s in-depth engagement with Afro-Berber art and craft.
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 The Yard through an adapted recreation of a mural from the first Asilah Moussem Festival of the Arts in 1978, painted by students from Zayed University in collaboration with Jotun paints. Further activations and collaborations are planned throughout the year.
The show, which was supposed to run at Concrete, Alserkal Avenue until April 4, can be viewed at www.alserkal.online due to temporary closure of the venue.