Informed by the past, yet jarringly present: Diana Al-Hadid’s first solo show in the Middle East
Known for her tower-like sculptures and drippy gypsum panels, Diana Al-Hadid has made a name for herself as a Renaissance-inspired sculpture artist. Her work reads like hypertext, linking various cultural histories and geography. Despite having been raised in the American Midwest, she was born in her family’s native Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Her work recalls ancient civilisations, as if lamenting their extinction. That is not, however, to assume that Al-Hadid’s work is planted in her Syrian heritage; on the contrary, she rejects the postmodern tradition of operation on, as Nicholas Bourriaud explains, ‘a logic of membership’, whereby artists are classified according to their ethnicity and/or culture. She is as much an American artist as she is a Syrian one.
Educated between her home state of Ohio and the East Coast, Al-Hadid now lives and works in New York City. Judging by the scale and materials she uses, one can imagine her Brooklyn studio being immensely large and busy. Phantom Limb, her first solo exhibition in the Middle East, currently on display at New York University in Abu Dhabi, is small, yet unmistakably poignant. The artist has used polymer gypsum, plaster, and fibreglass, amongst other materials, to make relic-like sculptures and panels. Because each piece is composed of such free-flowing shapes, it is clear that Al-Hadid works instinctively, blurring the line between ornate and austere by bringing ancient ruins and old masterpieces back to life. In a city erupting with modernity, Phantom Limb is overwhelming in its ability to resonate and evoke a sense of nostalgia