Sharjah Art Foundation presents Marwan Rechmaoui: Slanted Squares, an exhibition co-organised with the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht on the occasion of the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA) 2019.
Curated by Zeynep Öz, this major solo exhibition reflects the artist’s methodical study of cartography, demographics and urbanisation. Before travelling to SAF, the exhibition was on view at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, from 24 May through 8 September 2019 as part of BACA 2019.
Marwan Rechmaoui was selected for the 2019 Bonnefanten Award by a distinguished jury composed of Hoor Al Qasimi (chair), President and Director, Sharjah Art Foundation; Zeina Arida, Director, Sursock Museum; Stijn Huijts, Artistic Director, Bonnefantenmuseum; Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern; Suha Shoman, Founder and Chair, Khalid Shoman Foundation and Darat al Funun; and Christine Tohmé, Founding Director of Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts.
Granted every two years since 2000, the BACA recognises the exceptional artistic achievement of an artist whose practice is considered important and influential to artists, curators and other art professionals and whose work merits a serious introduction to a wider international audience. The laureate is awarded a prize of 50,000 euros, a solo exhibition at the Bonnefantenmuseum and a dedicated publication on his or her work.
Created from industrial materials such as concrete, metal, rubber, tar, textiles and glass, Marwan Rechmaoui’s work reflects his methodical study of cartography, demographics and urbanisation. He focuses on the socio-geography, architecture and cultural histories of cities and mirrors the socio-political structure and complex multicultural history of the Arab world. The artist has produced a variety of works, including models of city streets and Beirut landmarks as well as objects that reference domestic aspects of urban life.
The exhibition Slanted Squares presents two series of works, a Sharjah Art Foundation commission and a group of drawings all centred around the construction of buildings. Rechmaoui documents history through physical construction sites and foundational structures, using these spaces to generate metaphors for urban archaeological processes such as digging, excavating, stabilising and possibly rebuilding.
The ongoing series ‘Buildings’ (2000–present) consists of six sculptures, each referencing buildings in Lebanon that exist in a state of suspension. The structures have either been left unfinished or are currently being used for functions other than their original purposes. Works in this series include Monument for the Living (2002), Spectre (2006–2008), If I Only Had a Chance: Experimental Theatre (2018), If I Only Had a Chance: Helipad (2019), If I Only Had a Chance: Pyramid (2019) and The Coop (2019).
The series ‘Pillars’ (2014-present) deals with both the architectural and moral grounds on which physical and social sites are built, some of which are now crumbling. This work simultaneously reflects on the corruption of foundations and the inhabitants’ experience of abandonment. Rechmaoui started working on this series at the beginning of the Syrian war in 2014, when the media images provoked feelings similar to those he had experienced in connection with Beirut 20 years earlier.
Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation for Sharjah Biennial 13, Untitled 12 (2017), a twelve-panel work suggesting a running shoreline, expands on Rechmaoui’s interest in cartography by foregrounding the sentient capacity of spatial information. Critical of the impoverished representations of space that are often produced by two-dimensional surveying methods, he accounts for discrepancies between perception and empirical data by considering the disposition of the geography as well as that of the materials used to articulate its diverse topographies.
Rechmaoui’s drawings, shown for the first time in this exhibition, act as a mechanism for the artist to express playfulness and freedom. The vegetation in these drawings not only serves as the subject matter but also symbolises the unrestrained growth of organic matter, which stands in stark contrast to the rigidity and conflict of urban life. These works also allude to various life forms created through the artist’s work with concrete.
This exhibition is accompanied by the publication Marwan Rechmaoui: Slanted Squares, including texts and illustrations by Marwan Rechmaoui, Zeynep Öz, Hoor Al Qasimi, Stijn Huijts, and Akram Zaatari, co-published by Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht and Sharjah Art Foundation. Published in German and English, the book will be available for purchase at SAF’s shops in Al Mureijah Square and Arts Square and is distributed internationally by Idea Books.