Paul Laster reviews Mohammed Kazem's recent solo exhibition at Taymour Grahne Gallery.
“I am fascinated by collecting and documenting information about seemingly unimportant objects, traces of our present, within a particular environment.” – Mohammed Kazem
Taymour Grahne Gallery is proud to present ‘Memorizing by Means of Observing,’ an exhibit of works by Emirati artist Mohammed Kazem.
Born in 1969 in Dubai, Mohammed Kazem is a pioneering conceptual artist in the United Arab Emirates, who represented his country at the most recent Venice Biennale. Influenced by his relationship with his close friend and mentor Hassan Sharif, his work touches on current global transformations in the social, political, and natural environments, and explores abstract ideas about the body, movement, space, and the natural elements. Often positioning himself within his artwork, Kazem focuses on geographical location and the substance of elements as a means of claiming his subjectivity, particularly in relation to the rapid modernization of the Emirates.
This exhibition takes the form of a survey, including selected important works from Kazem’s oeuvre seen together for the first time, starting with Photographs with Flags, works initiated in the 90s, to Kisses, his most recent body of work, taken on the streets of New York.
Since 1990, Kazem has created visual representations of intangible phenomena, such as sound and light, using a technique that he calls ‘Scratching’– vigorously scratching the surface of a piece of paper with scissors. He uses this technique to describe sounds in an abstract visual language, where lines and dots punctuate his works, and where his long 'Scratched' scrolls can be read like a visual phonograph.
In Kazem's Photographs with Flags, the artist stands next to various flags, facing the landscape and bearing witness to the transformation of his environment. The flags that mark the space evoke urban expansion and stand in contrast to the artist’s position, which records a familiar, untouched environment on the verge of transformation. Similarly, Kazem’s Window series documents the construction of a high-rise building from his window over the course of two years, as it slowly began to block his view and even the sky.
It is in Directions that Kazem’s conceptual socio-geographic observations are brought to life through technology. In these works, the artist uses a GPS to make location the subject matter and environment the framework of his pieces. Anonymity replaces identification and coordinates anchor the new geographical dimensions. In the most recent work, Kisses, Kazem imagined the myriad possible connections between the chewed gum that dots the sidewalks of New York City, drawing lines between them in chalk and humorously titling them ‘Kisses’.
Mohammed Kazem studied painting in 1984 at the Emirates Fine Art Society in Sharjah, UAE and music in 1991 at Al Rayat Music Institute in Dubai, UAE. He received his MFA at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, USA, in 2012. He has participated in various solo exhibitions that include Sound of Object in 2014 at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai, UAE; RAW DATA in 2013 at the Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, UAE; Walking on Water at the National Pavilion of the UAE, The International Art Exhibition, The 55th Venice Biennale, Italy; and Directions in 2010 at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, USA. He also participated in group exhibitions including The Annual Exhibitions of Emirates Fine Art Society, since 1986, Sharjah, UAE, Sharjah Internaitonal Art Biennial, Sharjah, UAE (1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and upcoming 2015), Fluid Form II, Arab Contemporary Art in 2014, Busan Museum of Art, Busan, South Korea, Songs of Loss and Songs of Love in 2014, Gwangju Museum of Art, Gwangju, South Korea, Sky over the East: Works from the Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation in 2014, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, View from Inside, Contemporary Arab Photography in 2014 Video and Mixed Media Art, Fotofest, Houston, Texas, USA and Over-Look-Over, Empty 10, in 2014, Dubai, UAE. The artist currently lives and works in Dubai, UAE.