See Why Adel Abdessemed’s Intriguing New Paintings in Naples Are Filled With ‘Wonderfully Weird Discoveries’

The Algerian artist’s new solo show is on view now at Alfonso Artiaco in Naples.

Adel Abdessemed, Cocorico painting (2017-18). Courtesy of Galleria Alfonso Artiaco.

“Tomo Tomo.” “Courage.” “Angelina Jolie.”

These are some of the seemingly random phrases that appear in the lower-left corners of Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed’s new paintings, on view now at Galleria Alfonso Artiaco in Naples, Italy.

What do they mean? They are loaded with potential meaning, yet also inscrutable.

“The inscriptions in the lower-left corners of his works are not titles or epigraphs but should be seen as marginal notes,” says a representative from the gallery. “They are like pieces of memory that emerge from a background, placed on the board as tributes to everything and anyone. The artist’s interest in visual images and matter goes along with a deep fascination of language’s power. The possibility that different word combinations bring within them are for him emotionally challenging and become a source of wonderfully weird discoveries.”

Installation view of “Candele Candelotti e Sei Lumini,” 2019. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco.

The show, titled “Candele Candelotti e Sei Lumini,” is Abdessemed’s first with the gallery, and it brings together 27 works, all of which are part of his ongoing series of what he calls “Cocorico Paintings.” On the whole, the paintings themselves are just as impenetrable as the phrases written on them, and this is where they derive their enigmatic power.

The series and the paintings’ individual titles refer to Cocorico Monsieur Poulet, a Franco-Nigerian film from 1974 attributed to “Dalarou,” a portmanteau for three filmmakers: Damourè Zika, Lam Ibrahim, and cinéma vérité pioneer Jean Rouche.

Each painting is done on recycled, printed metal—an evolved version of an earlier work Abdessemed made in 2005 using old food tins. The fact that each substrate has lived a previous life works in tandem with Abdessemed’s deployment of phrases: both hint at a world of meaning that the viewer is ultimately not let in on.

Adel Abdessemed, Cocorico painting (2017-18). Courtesy of Galleria Alfonso Artiaco.

“What fascinates and drives the investigation of different materials in Abdessemed’s work is their own ductility and the intrinsic possibilities that each of them possesses,” the gallery rep says. “From here as the starting point, the artistic creation begins. The use of recycled materials may be associated with an awareness of the worldwide spread and consumption of certain products, and the uniformity that ensues.”

Galleria Alfonso Artiaco first opened in 1986 in a small, historic town north of Naples, the home to the first Roman Empire harbor. Focusing largely on Arte Povera, Minimalist, and conceptual art at the time, its program has since increasingly come to include buzzworthy contemporary artists. Artiaco relocated to Naples in 2002, the beginning of a 10-year stint in the Piazza dei Martiri in the city’s center. It moved to its current location, an ornate, 6,000-square-foot gallery in Piazzetta Nilo, in 2012.

Adel Abdessemed, Cocorico painting (2017-18). Courtesy of Galleria Alfonso Artiaco.

Candele Candelotti e Sei Lumini” is on view at Alfonso Artiaco through March 23, 2019.

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