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Adel Abdessemed (b. 1971)
Adel Abdessemed (b. 1971)


Adel Abdessemed (b. 1971)
printed steel
diameter: 118½ in. (301 cm.)
Executed in 2011.
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner

Lot Essay

This work is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.

Boetti is a reference point for my mappemonde works. His maps have become fundamental--they cannot be ignored. I can feel his paradox...the great Boetti, militant and exotic, who imposed a popular culture that was both ancient and non-European upon us. He found his paradise outside of Europe, and looked towards the effects of psychotropic substances to not merely change our views of the world, but also our abilities to experience ecstasy. There was a spirit of collective movement and individual impulse in the Western hemisphere during this time, and Boetti was a European flâneur outside of Europe...one with a sharp desire to reach further and beyond.
With my mappemonde, everything belongs to the world...those cans of olive oil are the world itself...made with water, air and fire. They extract something that is already there and bring it to another level, just like my Queen Mary II (2007) was rich and poor at once. The cans of olive oil don't contain any commentary, just as Andy Warhol, with his soup cans, did not provide a specific comment on the color red...Although, for someone of Mediterranean origin like myself, olive oil seems somehow more appropriate than tomatoes.
Warhol wasn't Barnett Newman, who in 1966 asked:"Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue"? My mappemonde works want to tell us "you have to change your life"...

ADEL ABDESSEMED, Paris, August 2, 2011
Born in 1971 in Constantine, Algeria, Adel Abdessemed often refers to his years in Algiers as the foundation for his artistic career and to his enforced emigration-due to increasing political problems in his country-as a departure point for his further development. His rise as a prominent figure on the contemporary art scene can be credited to the exceptional immediacy of his oeuvre.

Using a wide range of media, Abdessemed has become well known for his unconventional works. His unique style often appears simultaneously rich and economical, sensitive and provocative, romantic and bleak, radical and mundane, and always carries a strong, overt message. His sculptural works have included a large reconstruction of an airplane curled up inside a gallery space, and his video works sometime document his own, often perilous, actions, as for example his attempt to draw a circle on the ground while suspended upside down from a helicopter.

Mappemonde - olive provides a revealing example of how Abdessemed transforms everyday materials and images into unexpected and charged artistic declarations. As he notes on his choice of media more generally, "I have used milk, wine, mint, Coca-Cola, and marijuana. They are more accessible materials than black marble." Here, the artist presents a large-scale map of the world, built entirely from discarded tin cans. Collected from the local markets and streets of Fez, Abdessemed here continues a tradition of local craftsmanship and entrepreneurism found in many African countries, where cheap, readily-available products and waste materials are transformed into tools, children's toys, and other gadgets.

In keeping with the artist's practice, there is a darker undertone to this work. In a continent burdened with severe poverty, the abundance of cans used in mappemonde - olive can be seen as a reference to the waste culture of the industrial world, where the availability of food is taken for granted. The mass-produced, mass-consumed products referred to in this work are potent symbols of globalization, whose effects can be devastating in developing countries. The repetitive appearance of the cans across continents and countries further points towards the eradication of individual differences in today's media society: from a distance, the constellation of cans across the land masses takes the appearance of a flickering television screen, or digital noise. In an earlier work from 2007, Queen Mary II (la mère), Abdessemed also employed tin cans to recreate the famous cruise liner, creating an acute juxtaposition between luxury and poverty, renewal and waste, travel and stasis. Mappemonde - olive is a further step in the artist's critique of worldwide globalization, its sheer scale reminding us of its universal dimensions.

Writer Donatien Grau has noted how mappemonde - olive, in its technique as well as content, relates to the artist's oeuvre at large: "The contrast between the different elements that constitute the work-heterogeneous yet derived from a common source-and the overall visual appearance of continents and oceans can only prompt reflectionThis work reflects an essential component of Adel Abdessemed's wider practice that has to do with dialectical recycling-the use of materials which have already had another use, and which feature, more broadly, as material support in the artist's conceptual approach."1

Whereas Italian artist Alighiero Boetti's Mappa-a series of colorful, large maps of the world from the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, embroidered by Afghan artisans (the production followed the artisans' flight from Kabul to Peshawar in Pakistan in 1979 following the Russian invasion of Afghanistan)-differentiate between countries by using national flags to delineate national borders and thus reflect the geopolitical realities of the time of the work's production, Abdessemed's map employs the same can across all continents. The product, Crespo's green olives, appears symbolic in this respect: the olive tree, as the company website informs its readers, "has been linked from time immemorial to the history of mankind itselfand is a symbol throughout the world for peace, wisdom, and plenty." Yet on Abdessemed's map, the logo with the green olives appears like little more than a disposable brand, its repetition drawing attention to the surface of the work as a formalist pattern.

1 Donatien Grau, "Après la convulsion." (2011), n.p.

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