Born in France to Algerian parents in 1970, Kader Attia was raised between Northern Africa and a Parisian banlieue, an axis of locales from which the artist has drawn inspiration for much of his artistic practice. For his debut exhibition “Show your Injuries” at Lehmann Maupin in New York, Attia addresses long standing questions of identity and power through a visual language that is weighted in post-colonial references.
Shown across both of Lehmann Maupin’s gallery locations – the larger of the two, located on West 26th street, is organized as an immersive space of narrow halls and petite rooms where Attia has thoughtfully arranged a flawless, dense and poetic installation of projections, photographs and intervened objects. His approach is almost ethnographic, building a complex narrative of socio-cultural and political influence among found objects, images and music. As the title of the show suggests, disfigurement and destruction are widely used motifs that reference colonialism’s aggressive history while also delineating opposing aesthetic ideals and the ability to control through modification. This is found in a circular formation of antique prosthetic legs, collaged images of Algerian transsexuals, wooden masks adorned with mirror, and a particularly beautiful series of monochromatic tan canvases that have each been stitched with a single seam.
Downtown at Lehman Maupin’s Chrystie Street location, a wall-to-wall installation of over 100 repurposed doors of varying size and colour are arranged in an organic, haphazard display. Lit cinematically from above, the wooden frames tower over viewers with a brute-ness that evokes a gathering of protestors. This door itself becomes a symbol of its own dichotomic nature as an architectural structure that can both welcome or defend– a characteristic, and a privilege, that humans also embody.
Similarly, “Show Your Injuries” is a command for collective consciousness. So while the power imbalance of colonialism and cultural imperialism has a deep-seated and current relevance, Attia is demanding that we recognize the resulting lesions that we’ve come to bear. As that artist states, with injury comes repair, and while much has been done unto us, it is up to us to undo it.
“Show Your Injuries” is on show at Lehmann Maupin until 14 December
Text by Devon Caranicas
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