Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France11 Sep 2019 - 17 Nov 2019
The MEP presents Hassan Hajjaj’s first retrospective in France by giving him carte blanche to re-think all of MEP’s spaces. This major exhibition, reflecting a 30-year career, will feature all of Hajjaj’s most important photographic series as well as video works, sculptural installations and furniture. Even the educational spaces and new bookshop will be included in a real first for the MEP.
Born in 1961 in Larache, Morocco, Hassan Hajjaj has since lived and worked in both London and Morocco. Equally influenced by the London cultural and music scene, and his North African heritage, his practice reflects his ability to build bridges between the two cultures. This is most evident in the photographic series he began producing in the 1980s using colourful compositions to mix and blend the codes of contemporary fashion photography and Pop Art, bringing together different styles, references and icons. But beyond the sometimes deliberately kitsch look and playful humour that these images exude, they also support the artist’s message. For if Hassan Hajjaj plays with the imagery of fashion brands, it is not only a response to the question of what constitutes “today’s new Pop Art”; but it is also a way of expressing his position on today’s consumer society, especially with respect to the act of wearing the veil. By picturing young veiled women engaging with pop art and fashion that often ignore them, the artist seeks to explore questions of identity politics.
Furthermore, this combination of statements and Pop Art aesthetic, is also reflected in the frames for his photographs, which he makes in three dimensions using products mainly from Moroccan consumer culture (tin cans, tubes of harissa, and so on) and which become an integral part of the artwork. It is no accident that Rachid Taha gave Hassan Hajjaj the nickname Andy Wahloo*, an aphorism Hajjaj prints on his clothes, within his installations, and which is the name of the bar in Paris whose interior he designed.
* “I have nothing” in Arabic.