Following its touchdown last year at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, France, Hassan Hajjaj’s major retrospective has landed its Asian debut at Barakat Contemporary. Featured until September 27, with the gallery’s walls and flooring decked out to a multicolored match, is a curated body of the Moroccan artist’s exuberant works for A Taste of Things to Come, spanning the breadth of Hajjaj’s inclusive and positive worldview.
Through his signature jumble of colors and elements styled like fashion spreads, AKA, in candy ways that ‘pop,’ Hajjaj has turned the Orientalist and tourist view toward the culture of his native Moroccan culture on its head—as Sunny Rahbar of Third Line Gallery once explained, “by turning the camera onto the viewer and asking them to participate in his world, one where we can all coexist happily, playfully, and honestly together.”
As it is with his leading photography series (featured in the exhibit), such as My Rockstars, Kesh Angels, Dakka Marrakchia, and Legs, Hajjaj presents his emboldened subjects in multidimensional glam. Kesh Angels, a favorite example, features Henna girls atop motorbikes sporting fake Louis Vuitton caftans and polka dot wear. It’s an honest ‘shot-from-below’ take that, in one swoop, outstrips tourist notions toward caftans as a restriction, while playing with the geopolitical setting they are found in, where counterfeit goods come across as tourist novelties, purchased out of amusement.
Hajjaj’s artistic practice of refashioning perception is done, remarkably and since 1989, with zero irony: crisscrossing fashion, design, art, and commerce that resists oversimplified categories. As the artist explained back in 2019, “It’s about taking this orientalism vibe and saying, ‘O.K., let’s take ownership of it. Me being Moroccan, you being a Moroccan subject, let’s take that kind of thing, and do it our way.”
The photos above are from Hajjaj’s My Rockstars series, a record of artists Hajjaj had met during the decade he held pop-up photography studios on the streets of Marrakesh, London, Paris, and Dubai. The subjects range from dancers, cooks, musicians, and more, many of whom populate their respective underground scenes. For those in Seoul, a visit to Barakat Contemporary seems well worth the trip: Hajjaj’s work may just be a survey of a world to come. Whether that’s true or not, Hajjaj has blazed a trail worth getting behind.
A Taste of Things to Come continues at Barakat Contemporary until September 27, 2020.