Focus: Mohamed Melehi : 1959-1971




From September 10 to 25, 2018 


FOCUS: Works from Mathaf Collection is an ongoing series of solo exhibitions featuring artists from Mathaf Permanent Collection.


Mohammed Melehi: 1959-1971 is a study of the life and work of Moroccan artist Mohammed Melehi (b. 1936 Asilah) during the decade of the 1960s. Thirteen works from the Mathaf Collection, from Formation (1959) to Untitled (1970-77), trace Melehi’s curiosity with ideological, scientific, and political systems in modern society. This perspective was shaped by formative periods living in Europe (1955-1962) and the USA (1962-64), before returning to Morocco in 1964, experiences that were grounded in the context of major geopolitical changes and events such as the cold war, the independence of Morocco and Algeria, and the 1967 War.

During studies in art in Rome (1957-1960) Melehi’s connections with intellectual thinkers in the fields of philosophy, cybernetics, and systems theories informed a series of grey and black vertical line based collages and paintings, such as Formation (1959) addressing ideas around cognition and causality. From 1962, the new physical and psychological reality of New York inspired a series of paintings exploring technology and the human condition. In these the square is repeatedly employed referencing the development of IBM’s computer chip, and the energy of the city lights, grid-system, and high-rise towers, communicating an immersive urban experience the artist described as, “Floating in the new world”.

Melehi returned to Morocco in 1964, nine years after independence was restored. In his paintings the wave became a central concept engaged with water as an organic system, sound waves in communication technologies, and the reverberations of new ideas in society addressing national identity, individuality, and equality in Morocco within the collective, global consciousness. Through his work as an artist, teacher, and intellectual Melehi consistently connected and explored language, geography, and history, staking a claim for new forms of creative expression connecting the cultural heritage of Morocco's past and future.

Presented chronologically these works communicate a progressive use of color and geometric shapes - from the line to the square, the wave, and the circle – that chart the making of a coded language confronting ideological contrasts between man-made and organic, the political left and right, the East and the West, and tradition and progress.

September 20, 2017