The internationally renowned Morroccan-French artist Latifa Echakhch is presenting a site-specific work this summer in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Her contribution to the museum’s Sensory Spaces series is her first solo exhibition in the Netherlands.
For the fourteenth edition of Sensory Spaces, Latifa Echakhch, winner of the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2013 and the Zürich Art Prize in 2015, has created a new installation for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Echakhch creates a dramatic scene with clothes drenched in black ink. On the floor are the traces left by the clothes as they were dragged across it. Walking through the room visitors will discover that the traces form meaningful patterns. Curator Nina Folkersma: ‘Latifa Echakhch’s work brings together apparent contrasts: it is conceptual as well as romantic, political and poetic.’
Latifa Echakhch describes herself as a romantic at heart. Born in Morocco, she grew up in romantic landscape of Aix-les Bains on the banks of Lac du Bourget in France. She now lives and works in Martigny, in the equally charming surroundings of the Swiss Alps. She draws inspiration for her work from memories of her childhood and from political events, literature and poetry. Art history, in particular the art of the 1960s and 1970s, is another reference point for her aesthetic vocabulary.
Echakhch makes works, often in the form of compositions with existing objects, that have a strongly emotional, melancholic and sometimes even violent expressive power. At the same time her work is characterised by a minimalist pictorial idiom, with an acute sense of form and an economy of means. Echakhch excels in eliminating the superfluous and maintaining a balance between form and content. Visitors who see her work often witness the fallout from an action: coloured glass shards from smashed teacups (Erratum, 2009), the scratched-out remains of a mural (Cross Fade, 2017) or prayer mats whose centres have been cut out so that only the fringed edges remain, like empty frames (Frame, 2008). Visitors see only what is left, so they must call upon their powers of imagination.
The notion of absence plays a major role in Echakhch’s oeuvre. Something that is absent or intangible – a homeland, a national identity – can have a huge and lasting impact. Yet it would be too easy to reduce her work to a melancholy reflection of ostensibly lost cultural roots. Concepts like ‘identity’, ‘origin’ and ‘belonging’ do play a role in her work, but are deconstructed rather than empowered. She uses objects, motifs and materials that are supposedly ‘Arabic’ or ‘oriental’, and thus supposed to define her culturally, but then she hollows them out or smashes them to bits – like the Moroccan teacups which are just as exotic to her as to everyone else.
Another example is the work Stoning (2010), a collection of loose stones that the artist threw forcibly against the walls of a gallery. The work inexorably conjures up the image of a stoning and is a silent indictment of this method of capital punishment, with a long history in Christian iconography and still in use in some Islamic countries. The work simultaneously has echoes of recent art history, such as the minimalist sculptures of Richard Long and the performance Stoning the Refrigerator (1996) by Jimmie Durham. Echakhch feels a strong need to undermine preconceived ideas about identity, nationality and cultural tradition. Although this is sometimes accompanied by a violent force, the political content of her work is never frontal or one-dimensional, but rather subtle and poetic.
Sensory Spaces is a series of commissioned solo projects presented in the Willem van der Vorm Gallery, located in the freely accessible exhibition space in the museum’s entrance hall. Artists are invited to respond to the architectural qualities of the space, emphasising notions of transformation and surprise. The guest curator of Sensory Spaces 13 and 14 is Nina Folkersma.
Latifa Echakhch (born 1974 in El Khnansa, Morocco) lives in Martigny, Switzerland. She has had solo exhibitions at venues including Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (2018); Kiosk, Ghent (2018); Manoir de la ville de Martigny (2017); The Power Plant, Toronto, (2016), Kunstmuseum Linz (2015); Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zürich (2015); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2014); MAC, Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon (2013); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2013); Portikus, Frankfurt am Main (2012); Kunsthaus, Zürich (2012); MACBA, Barcelona (2010); Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel (2009); and Tate Modern, London (2008). Her work has been part of numerous group exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2016); Museo Riso, Palermo (2015); Power Station of Art, Shanghai, (2014); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2013); MoMA PS1, New York (2013); and Kunsthalle Basel (2010). She participated in the 15th Istanbul Biennale (2017), Sharjah Biennale 11 in the United Arab Emirates (2013); the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012); the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); the 10th Biennale de Lyon (2009) and Manifesta 7 in Bolzano, Italy (2008).
Latifa Echakhch received the Zürich Art Prize in 2015 and the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2013. She is represented by Galerie Kamel Mennour (Paris), Galerie Eva Presenhuber (Zürich) and Dvir Gallery (Tel Aviv).
Bosch, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dalí and Dutch design: a visit to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is a journey through the history of art. Dutch and foreign masterpieces provide a comprehensive survey of art from the early Middle Ages to the present day. Masterpieces by, among many others, Monet, Mondrian and Magritte show the development of Impressionism and Modernism. The museum has one of the world’s largest collections of Surrealist art and an excellent collection of British and American Pop art with works by David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. And the museum is the place for decorative arts and design: from medieval ceramics and Renaissance glass to furniture by Gerrit Rietveld and contemporary Dutch design.