It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Mohamed Melehi yesterday, 28 October 2020.
It was our privilege as a gallery to show the exhibition New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School in 2019, the first solo exhibition of Melehi’s work in the UK. The exhibition, curated by Morad Montazami, has since gone on to open to visitors at the Museum of Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech and at Alserkal Arts Foundation in Dubai.
Melehi’s own work developed from a dialogue between Moroccan traditional and popular craft and the hard-edge movement of the 1960’s. The form of the wave was a motif Melehi worked with throughout his career. In a talk at The Mosaic Rooms last year Melehi said: ‘The wave is a force, a string of sensuality, water, fire and if you look through traditional African Art there is always a wave. I took the wave many years ago as my alphabetic tool, I use it as I wish to use it.’ Melehi worked across disciplines through painting, graphic design (including in the influential art journals Souffles and Integral) murals and in sculpture. His work is held in collections including Tate, Institut du Monde Arabe and MOMA, among others.
An artist, teacher and mentor, Mohamed Melehi was hugely important to modern Moroccan art and in the history of international modernism. Melehi began teaching at the Casablanca Art School in 1964 at the invitation of artist Farid Belkahia, having returned to Morocco after the country gained independence. He was a radical figure at the school who overturned traditional teachings to teach an avant-garde pedagogy combining the aesthetics of global modernism with Moroccan visual culture and popular crafts. The Casablanca Group’s exhibition in Jma el-Fna in which they displayed paintings outdoors in the famous square is considered a seminal event in the history of Arab modernities. He co-founded the Asilah festival with Mohammed Benaïssa in 1978, the arts festival still takes place annually. As an artist he continued to work until the present day.
Our deepest condolences go to Mohamed Melehi’s family and loved ones.