Join us for the exhibition launch event on Thursday 14 December, 6.30 - 8.30 PM. More information here>
The title of the exhibition refers to Abdu’Allah’s new photo tapestries, The Duppy Conqueror (2017), presented here for the first time. In this triptych, Abdu’Allah explores a masked alter-ego character known as the ‘Duppy Conqueror’. In Jamaican tradition, a ‘duppy’ is an evil ghost or spirit; this malevolent supernatural being resurrected by Abdu’Allah highlights the genocidal nature of violence against the black body, and the ongoing struggle with ghosts or spectres from the past, conjured by a hostile world dominated by ignorance and deception. As such, The Duppy Conqueror tapestries remind the audience of the many restless souls that haunt the earth in search of justice and recognition: a process curator Mark Sealy describes as ‘the violent stains of history and culture, the undead of our past as a matter of material refuse to be reconfigured and recycled to make the future new, rested and liberated.’
The Last Supper I + II re-presents a series of previous photo works (originally commissioned by Autograph ABP in 1994 and produced in collaboration with Kofi Allen) reworked as two large-scale photo-tapestries. In these elaborately staged tableaux, Abdu’Allah and Kofi Allen presents 12 young black men and women re-enacting Christ’s iconic final feast, dressed in everyday street clothes and Muslim garb. Heavily armed, these figures are locked somewhere in between zones of confrontation and protection – challenging the viewer into a critical dialogue about the past, present and the future.
Other works on display include After Kosuth (2012-17), a self-portrait that exists as a photograph, a photo etching on paper and a gold-plated bronze cast of the artist’s head. The work is a reflection of Abdu’Allah’s interest in transformation, states of consciousness and experimentation with multiple forms of printing, inspired by the work One and Three Chairs (1965) by American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth. By opting for a self-portrait in three different forms, Abdu’Allah questions the validity and accuracy of (self-)representation, and especially photography’s supposed ability to accurately reflect reality.
Finally, Head of State (1997) represents Abdu’Allah’s practice in the late-1990s, when he first began to experiment with architectural ‘photo-environments’: narrative site-specific gallery installations that juxtapose sculpture, three-dimensional objects and photographs. Here, large-scale wallpapers of bodies in a morgue and a life-size coffin are emblematic of inevitable encounters with death, conjuring up the experience of violence, loss and mourning. Abdu’Allah describes the resulting artificial realm as a ‘space of no escape’ and its gruesome affect is an admittance of the need for more social wakefulness.