15.11.2021 | 25.02.2022
Elmarsa Gallery is pleased to stage a group exhibition of Algerian painters considered as pioneers in the advent of Modernism. Inspired by both the struggle for freedom and the discourse of identity that dominated the spirit of the Arab world throughout the twentieth century, the majority of Algerian artists who came into their own during the 1950s and 1960s initiated a modern art movement. An exhibition that aims at highlighting the emergence of the postcolonial art production in Algeria as the countries of the Maghreb fought for independence after World War II, thus challenging the dominant European cultural model. Following the first-generation of Algerian artists who were self-taught since they were excluded from art education and the Société des Beaux-arts founded in Algiers in 1851, the “generation from the 1930s” including Abdelkader Guermaz (1919-1996), M'hamed Issiakhem (1928-1985), Mohammed Khadda (1930-1991), Baya Mahieddine (1931-1998) and Abdallah Benanteur (1931- 2017) have paved their way to abstraction and modern painting. The various artistic generations rejected references to the academic style as well as to the Orientalists’ stereotypes in favor of their distinct North African-Berber origins and Arab-Islamic heritage. This presentation attempts to retrace the art practices in Algeria that embody the quest for a plural Algerian identity influenced by its geopolitical identity and singular culture. Artists contested the figurative and narrative vision, felt as foreign to Maghrebi sensibility, and their work reflected the emergence of several tendencies toward naive art and expressionism, non-figuration and the use of traditional signs and symbols. The pioneers of Algerian modernism had a strong influence on contemporary artists’ emergence and practice over four generations of artists, among them Mahjoub Ben Bella (1946-2020) and Rachid Koraichi (b. 1947) whose works presented in the exhibition provide details of the specificities connected to that country.