PULSE New York named Hassan Hajjaj their 2014 PULSE Prize winner on Friday. Hajjaj was chosen for the award, including a $2,500 prize, by an invitational jury including Kathy Battista, Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art NY; Paddy Johnson, founder and Editorial Director of Art F City; Julia Kaganskiy, director of NEW INC., New Museum; and Alice Gray Stites, Museum Director and Chief Curator of 21c Museum Hotels.
Part fashion photography, part hip hop, part pop art, the self-taught Moroccan-born artist's work combines a vibrant mix of textures and colors to create stunning portraits as idiosyncratic as the people he photographs. The jury selected Hajjaj, represented at PULSE by L.A.’s GUSFORD Gallery, for his My Rock Stars, a portrait series of friends (and sometimes friends of friends) dressed up as rock stars clad in various flamboyant ensembles, serving up Moroccan-rock-star-chic realness against extravagantly textured backgrounds.
Left: The Narcicyst, 2013, Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood and found objects, 34 x 24.5 in 87 x 62 cm.; Right: Afrikan Boy, 2013, Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood and found objects, 53.5 x 37 in 136 x 93 cm; Both courtesy of GUSFORD Gallery
Framed by tiled images of packaged goods and displaying a striking mix cultural signifiers—Louis Vuitton, Niqabs, Nike, djellabahs—Hajjaj’s work challenges neatly demarcated identities and makes astute commentaries on materialism and globalization. It’s through this mix that Hajjaj creates work both critical and exciting. It’s not simply more post-modern decontexualization and reproduction, but rather the illustration of a new global whole, emerging from the exchange of high-brow and low-brow, global South and global North, East and West.
Hajjaj was born in Morocco in 1964 but moved to London when he was 14. He’s worked continuously across mediums on installations, performances, fashion, and design. He got his first big break in 2000 with his solo show, Pop Art in the Kasbah at Ministero Del Gusto Gallery in Marrakech. A few years later his work was shown in a group exhibition, Black British Style, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he was shortlisted for the 2009 Jameel Prize for Islamic Art.
The first part of Hajjaj’s My Rock Stars series, My Rock Stars Experiemental, Volume 1, went on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2013. Comprised of nine videos of musical performances filmed by Hajjaj, its subjects include an international array of musicians sporting bold outfits designed by Hajjaj himself.
Rider, 2010/1431, Edition of 10, Metallic Lambda Print on 3mm White Dibond, 24.49h x 35.63w in / 62.2h x 90.5w cm; Courtesy of Taymour Grahne
In the past decade he’s shown at The Third Line in Dubai, Rose Issa Projects in London, and Freies Museum in Berlin, to name a few. He held his first American solo show just this year at GUSFORD Gallery in L.A. Past work includes Graffix From The Souk, Noss Noss: Photographic Works and other Moroccan Stories, and Kesh Angels, a series of portraits of chic, niqab-wearing women on motorcycles.
Hajjaj joins a list of previous PULSE Prize winners including Cristina De Middel, Duke Riley, and Travis Somerville.
(Image top: V.B.F., 2013, Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood and found objects, 35.5 x 25.5 in 89 x 65 cm; Courtesy of GUSFORD Gallery.