This solo exhibition is dedicated to the influential Egyptian modernist painter Hamed Abdalla (1917-1985). ARABÉCÉDAIRE explores Abdalla’s extensive archives and library, looking at him both as an artist and as a researcher. Curated by Morad Montazami, this will be the first exhibition in the UK of this significant Egyptian artist.
The title of the exhibition is rooted in the French word ‘Abécédaire’ meaning a visual alphabet primer. Abdalla’s work centred on his development of what he called the ‘creative word’, written words expressed in paint, blending abstraction and human forms. This exhibition will focus on six resonant words to examine the development of Abdalla’s visual language and political ideas through previously unseen material and archives.
ARABÉCÉDAIRE will explore his journeys, both real and imagined, with connections extending to the European CoBrA group and the non-aligned movements, (the global movement of states who remained independent from the super powers of the time). Through mapping and archival displays it will show Abdalla as a kind of visual archaeologist of ‘Arabness’.
This exhibition is the first in a special programme of exhibitions, celebrating the tenth anniversary of The Mosaic Rooms. It forms the first of a three part series curated by Morad Montazami entitled Cosmic Roads: Relocating Modernism presenting important modernist artists from three countries, Egypt, Iran and Morocco. The programme will also feature a series of group shows of contemporary art from these three countries organised in partnership with regional institutions and curators.
Hamed Abdalla (1917-1985) is an influential painter in Egyptian modernism. Self-taught, he had established himself as an artist by his early 20’s. Frustrated by the political climate of his native country, Abdalla left Egypt to continue his career in Copenhagen during the 1960s. Here he crossed paths with artists associated with the CoBrA movement before he moved to France. Linking the origins of his abstract works to Islamic traditions and calligraphy, Abdalla explored the concept of the ‘creative word’ or ‘talisman’, the combination of a written word, a body shape and an abstract form, upon the canvas. In his work he reflected on the political change of the time, alongside his research into the visual ideas. Curator Morad Montazami notes ‘Abdalla represents a prolific “archive” for different genealogies of trans-arab and Mediterranean modernities.’
Morad Montazami is an art historian and curator. His research interests are cosmopolitan modernisms and histories of the avant-garde between trans-Arab, Iranian and Mediterranean zones. He has published essays on Farid Belkahia, Bahman Mohassess, Behjat Sadr, Mohamed Melehi, Mehdi Moutashar, Latif Al Ani, among others. He curated the exhibitions Bagdad Mon Amour at Institut des cultures d’Islam, Paris, opening March 2018, Fugitive Volumes and Faouzi Laatiris: Catalogue déraisonné at the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rabat (2016) and co-curated the exhibition Unedited History: Iran 1960-2014 at Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris and MAXXI, Rome (2014). He is the director of Zaman Books Publishing and its related journal Zamân. Montazami is currently working as a research curator at Tate Modern, London.