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Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

New works from Adel Abdessemed feature scorched fur and razorwire crucifixions

by James Thorne
on 17 February 2012

A collection of new works opens today at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City, showcasing the creative talents of Adel Abdessemed. The Algerian-born artist tackles a range of materials and mediums in a collection focusing on themes of violence, war and spectatorship. The namesake piece "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" is built to the dimensions of Picasso's "Guernica," and is made from a mass of taxidermic animals. Abdessemed has scorched the fur to achieve a blackened effect, a process that actually fills gallery space with a distinct sulfuric smell.

Adel_Wolf1a.jpg Adel_Wolf1b.jpg

The stunning series "Décor" is inspired by the crucified figure from Matthias Grünewald's 16th-century Isenheim Altarpiece. The violent expression is achieved through the manipulation and welding of razor wire, which also yields a rainbow discoloration from the heating process. Floating alone without the support of a cross, the three figures are built to anatomical scale.


"Hope" takes a marooned boat from the Gulf Coast and transplants it into the gallery space. The cavity has been filled with sculptural objects that resemble garbage bags, representing both the people and the possessions that have been transported across the waters. Abdessemed's experience immigrating to France informs his focus on the immigrant experience and the risks that migrant peoples undertake.


The resin sculpture "Coup de tête" channels a historic moment of broadcast violence as French footballer Zinedine Zidane headbutts Italy's Marco Materazzi. "L'avenir c'est aux fantômes" ("The Future Belongs to Ghosts") is a reference to Derrida's concept of phenomena, the title pulled from the philosopher's own writing. The gorgeous hand-blown sculptures are raised well above eye-level, heightening their spectral appearance as they are framed against the gallery's skylights.


Also on display is a collection of crude sketches of animals bearing dynamite, which intentionally resemble cave drawings. A looped video shows a baboon spelling out in magnetic letters the words "Hutu" and "Tutsi." This is a reference to the two conflicting factions of the Rwandan genocide, and continues Abdessemed's recurring theme of violence. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" marks the build-up to Abdessemed's major upcoming exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, which opens October 2012.

See more images of "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" in our slideshow of the exhibitition.

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