VINCENT ABADIE HAFEZ
19th December, 2016 - 9th February, 2017
The Mine is pleased to present Superplasticizer, a solo show of new works by French artist Vincent Abadie Hafez.
Construction materials, like people, have yield points. There’s only so much they can be malleable or flexible; there’s only so much they can take before something snaps. We can understand the city the same way. Dubai is often dismissed as super-plastic, with a similar kind of brittle fragility at its core. Yet when certain superplasticizing polymers are added to fresh concrete paste, the result is a dramatically stronger material that is far less susceptible to stress. They also act as a dispersant, spreading gravel and sands evenly throughout the admixture, and prohibiting particle segregation. Transposed to Dubai, truly a multicultural city, the superplasticizer functions as the kind of social glue and emotional intelligence that quietly holds together a truly multicultural, fully integrated city.
Over the years Zepha’s practice has expanded from its urban beginnings to the gallery wall, but a responsiveness to the built environment, borne of a deep study of each locale, remains central. For this new body of paintings, the artist uses a superplasticizer mixed with cement, rubble, and sand from the streets of Dubai—the raw materials of the city—to create texturally rich canvases. The surfaces are then worked over in his characteristic caligraffiti style which he originated in the 1990s. Borne out of his twinned interests in Arabic calligraphy and street art, its inherent ephemerality is acutely suited to a city defined by its transience. Brush strokes are supplanted with marks made by scrap woods from nearby construction sites, which are then further repurposed into a sculptural bas-relief triptych.
Above all, Superplasticizer is a study in scarcity (instead of water, Zepha reuses AC runoff from the gallery). The works gesture not only to peak oil but also to a future world without plastics whose existence depends on oil-derived petrochemicals. More subtle is the allusion to peak sand—despite being surrounded by it in Dubai, only a very specific consistency is appropriate for concrete—and the reminder that nothing is quite as abundant as it seems. A hidden poetics of destruction and creation emerges: the writing on the wall is not a warning, but a tribute.