By Nii B. Andrews.
Mustapha Akrim has set himself a formidable task.
It is to assist in developing a new language in order to redefine the foundation of expression in the visual arts in Morocco.
He is part of the cohort of artists seeking to formulate a new freedom of expression that is radically different from the aesthetics developed in the post-colonial period.
The context in which the diligent search is conducted is underlined by the tearing down of old paradigms (including political, social, financial, economic, hierarchical) and a widespread abject crisis and dysfunction in the contemporary world.
Thus for Mustapha, the process involves myriad methodologies encompassing perforce numerous media: painting, photography, drawing, bas reliefs and “new constructions” using concrete.
Mustapha explains, “My artworks are questions about the concept (work) and its relationship to youth and the job market”.
His use of concrete and iron references this powerfully especially as he employs the same materials to construct text/ calligraphy and configures the whole in a way that transmits the perspective of the artist.
In this regard, his latest exhibition “Part of / جزء من” which opened to tremendous acclaim at the Comptoir des Mines Gallery (CMG) last week, is not only meant to be the continuation of research already started but also the unveiling of a new artistic lexicon to address “this particular moment” we are going through where our certainties and convictions seem to be shaken by the global hazards and crises of the world.
It is a lavish display of Mustapha’s masterly talents.
The art on show includes and provides incontrovertible evidence of his nuanced philosophical perspective, superlative dexterity and compositional skills.
The cavernous Hangar – part of CMG, was an appropriate setting for his calligraphic work which utilized massive chunks of steel deftly fabricated by the artist himself such that they appeared dynamic – as if in motion, almost like locomotives especially on account of the prominent rivets linking the letters and words.
The message would appear to be that no one should hope to ride rough shod and with non- chalance over societal problems that exist everywhere: unemployment, poor education and lack of the entrenchment of freedoms that foster development and progress.
In order to unveil the plurality of visions and ideas that bear witness to the vitality of any society, Mustapha also features oil on canvas paintings done with a palette knife and an emphatic but agile impasto technique.
Some of this series featured a car in various states of demolition and surrounded with detritus – perhaps a metaphor for our technological failures in this anthropocene age.
Other mixed media pieces involved an agglomeration of working instruments within a gigantic circle; (Circular Pressure) thus expressing his caution or foreboding or perhaps even nihilism at the effects of the use of technology without a coherent and progressive spiritual or ethical grounding.
It is probable that this stance of the artist was repeated by another series of unfinished iron rods used in construction welded together but with random colored geometric solids attached.
The effect was that of an uncompleted and or decaying building left standing neglected in a desolate landscape.
Quite clearly, this artist is an astute student of the dynamics of power – and possibly an acerbic interpreter of the long term effects.
Most importantly, he has derived an accurate and accessible lexicon with which to share the fruits of his extensive researches.
All told, the exhibition – PART OF, is a tour de force that confirms Mustapha Akrim as an authentic and important voice in the development of an eloquent and relevant language for contemplating some weighty issues in contemporary Moroccan society and beyond.
The accompanying exhibition catalog is also stimulating and evocative.
The curatorial selection of work is impressive and further cements the CMG as a high brow, vanguard indigenous institution for the exploration and discovery of serious contemporary art and culture.
Part-Of / جزء من
28 December 2022-
12 February 2023