Hassan Hajjaj’s glowing reputation in the international art world has just gone up a notch with his first two solo shows in the USA. January saw the Moroccan born, London bred artist exhibit My Rock Stars: Volume 2 at Gusford Gallery in Los Angeles and now he’s shifted to New York for ‘Kesh Angels at Taymour Grahne Gallery throughout February. Both display his signature portraiture style, which plays with the visual languages of fashion photography and African studio photography as a means of challenging the West’s misconceptions about North African Arabic society while celebrating his own multi-cultural existence.
The Rock Stars series features photography and films of his talented friends around the world including Keziah Jones, The Venus Bushfires and Afrikan Boy, who are transformed by his makeshift studios, colourful costumes and pop art frames. “Having them singing shares their talent so the work becomes more about them than me,” Hajjaj explains modestly of the new films included in Volume 2. “When I was shooting Hindo Zahra at her home some birds flew in and started singing along with her, it was unreal!”
‘Kesh Angels focuses on the young female bikers who are a common sight whizzing through Marrakesh’s narrow streets, a subject he has been fascinated with for 15 years. Wearing veils and djellabah in fashion fabrics and posing confidently with their scooters, these women are at once traditional and modern, Arabic and independent, confrontational and happy. “They’re all stars to me,” says Hajjaj of his subjects.
The self-taught, award-winning artist is based between London and Marrakesh and his extensive body of work also includes installation, performance, fashion and interior design. A new book surveying the last decade of his output has just been jointly published by Taymour Grahne and Rose Issa Projects and after NYC, he’s part of the Marrakesh Biennale 2014 and Belgium’s Photo-Festival Knokke-Heist 2014 followed by shows in Cork and Texas, a special project in Tunisia and then back to LA to edit his first documentary film.
‘Kesh Angels is at Taymour Grahne Gallery, NYC, from January 28th to March 2nd
Images: courtesy Hassan Hajjaj
Words: Helen Jennings