Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School
The Mosaic Rooms present works by the abstract painter Mohamed Melehi (b. 1936). This is the first UK exhibition dedicated to Mohamed Melehi, now regarded as a cornerstone of postcolonial Moroccan art and of modernism in the Global South. New Waves presents Melehi the painter, photographer, designer, teacher and cultural activist.
Melehi’s own work results from a dialogue between Moroccan traditional and popular craft, whilst also connecting to the hard edge painters of the 1960’s. His multiple and overflowing variations on the motif of the “wave” suggests new possibilities for a transnational modernism. The exhibition presents a selection of key paintings from the 1950s – 1980s displayed together for the first time in the UK.
The exhibition also tells the story of the radical Casablanca art school, through previously unseen archive material. Melehi returned to Morocco after it gained independence, and began teaching at the school in 1964, invited by the artist Farid Belkahia who was head of the school. At the school Melehi and other prominent artists and thinkers encouraged their students to look beyond traditional western style teachings, learning about local visual culture, and to move between artistic disciplines. In 1969 Melehi and other artists of the Casablanca school staged Exposition Manifeste in Jma el-Fna Square, Marrakech. This outdoor exhibition remains a central point of reference in the study of Arab modernities.
The exhibition also explores Melehi’s graphic design. Melehi helped shaped the aesthetics of of art networks and political causes throughout the Maghreb and Pan-Arab regions, designing for avant-garde cultural journals including Souffles (1966-69) and Integral (1972-77).
New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School is the final exhibition in a special three exhibition series of modernists from the Arab world and Iran, curated by Morad Montazami.
Listen to Mohamed Melehi in conversation with curator Morad Montazami below.
Mohamed Melehi (b.1936, Asilah, Morocco) is a painter, designer, photographer, muralist and cultural activist. His work has featured in numerous solo exhibitions including at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1995, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 1984. He has participated in group shows in Casablanca, Baghdad, Algiers, London, Paris, Rome, Zurich and New York among others. His work is held in international museum collections including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; MOMA, New York; and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.
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 and Latif Al Ani, among others. He curated the exhibitions ARABÉCÉDAIRE Hamed Abdalla, and Behjat Sadr: Dusted Waters at The Mosaic Rooms in 2018. He also curated Bagdad Mon Amour at the Institut des Cultures d’Islam, Paris, 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..
In support of the exhibition:
In support of a book on the artist due to be published in June by Zâman books:
Our thanks to Trade Paintings Services for restoration services.
Feature image: Mohamed Melehi, Composition (1970). Acrylic on board. Courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, photographed by Capital D.