Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars presents a video installation by Moroccan-born, UK-based artist Hassan Hajjaj, along with a related series of photographs, in a salon installation designed expressly for the exhibition. The video, My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume I (2012), recently acquired by the Newark Museum, pays tribute to individuals who—though they may not all be famous—have inspired the artist personally. The video features nine separately filmed performances by an international group of musicians and singers whose influences include hip-hop, jazz, as well as Gnawa (traditional north African spiritual songs by descendants of enslaved west Africans).
An excerpt of a piece written by Mallika Rao for Huffington Post: “Hassan Hajjaj is a multidisciplinary artist who was born in Morocco and moved to London in his teens at the height of the punk craze. For the last 15 years, he’s joined the two cultures, splitting his time between Marrakech and London.
His subjects are his current friends, who pose and dress in ways that translate into arresting hybrid art. A recent series, Kesh Angels, depicts a cross-section of this crowd — mostly women — in traditional clothes printed in global symbols of capitalism. Here a Louis Vuitton print, there a Nike swoosh. Many are henna tattoo artists who embody nuance in their daily life, zipping to jobs on a scooter, head scarves in place. Likewise, Hajjaj’s first solo show in America — My Rock Stars: Volume 2 — presented his male friends in the overblown poses of a Western icon, the rock star.
Hajjaj designs the entirety of his shows, down to the clothes for the shoot and gallery seating. He hires local tailors and artisans to manufacture the work, which is often a neat fusion of two ideas, such as a Western suit pieced out of regional textiles. Hajjaj may be the name in the gallery notes, but these men and women are collaborators, switching from what Hajjaj once called an ‘automatic factory’ process — a souk tailor might typically produce nothing but pinstriped suits for businessmen throughout his career — to atelier-esque customization.
Frames are another chance to cross breed. The repetitive quality of Moroccan mosaic is echoed in inset rows of products printed with Arabic script. The tactile patterns, sometimes made of Coke or Fanta cans, are easy to overlook at first glance, but their purpose is multidimensional. They reinforce not only the theme of global commerce, but a thoroughly Moroccan habit: to recycle items out of necessity.”
(Also opening on the February 25th is Royals and Regalia: Inside the Palaces of Nigeria’s Monarchs by Nigerian photographer George Osisdi. An interesting juxtaposition; urban street culture mashing up traditional Moroccan art alongside the opulence of Nigerian royalty that Fela sang of).
These exhibitions kick-off a two-year celebration of the Museum’s collecting of African art. A major reinstallation is targeted for completion in 2017, the centennial year of the Museum’s African art collection.