Gallery Hopping: Hassan Hajjaj Empowers Arab Women in Latest Photo Exhibition

It's a woman's world in the artist's latest exhibition.

Hassan Hajjaj, Head to Head(2006).
image: Courtesy of Hassan Hajjaj and The Third Line, Dubai.

On March 14, Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj opened his newest collection of gender-redefining images at The Third Line art gallery in Duabi. Titled “La Salle de Gym des Femmes Arabes,” or the “Gym for Arab Women,” the photographs in the exhibition were taken over the course of many years in different locations.

In this series, Hajjaj looks to re-define gender norms in the context of athleticism, by placing female figures in the gym or other spaces that are traditionally perceived as masculine. Hajjaj, who has never seen inside a female-only gym, draws on this lack of knowledge as a strength, and uses his imagination to invent these women-only spaces.

Hassan Hajjaj, <em> M's Back</em>(2012).<br>Image: Courtesy of Hassan Hajjaj and The Third Line, Dubai

Hassan Hajjaj, M’s Back(2012).
Image: Courtesy of Hassan Hajjaj and The Third Line, Dubai

Hajjaj dresses his models in various uniforms, which are typically made with brightly-colored fabrics bearing recognizable athletic brands. The textiles and shapes are pieced together and designed by Hajjaj.

The artist then places his models in sets with props such as boxing gloves, gym shoes, surf boards, and footballs. The subjects have been masked and dressed like fictional characters to parallel his fictional sets and unfamiliarity with women’s gyms. In keeping with his previous installations, Hajjaj uses vibrant colors and textures to evoke the vibe of Moroccan street fashion.

Hassan Hajjaj Feetball2006. Image: Courtesy of The Third Line.

Hassan Hajjaj Feetball2006.
Image: Courtesy of Hassan Hajjaj and The Third Line, Dubai

Most of Hajjaj’s photographs reference North African fashion and found objects. Hassan has had solo exhibitions at the Newark Museum, the Worcester Art Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum.

The show, which opened on Monday, March 14, runs through Saturday, April 16 at The Third Line.

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