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Diana Al-Hadid Plays the Classics

May 1, 2015

How do you get a painting to stand up on its own? At her Bushwick, Brooklyn studio and OHWOW Gallery in Los Angeles, artist Diana Al-Hadid creates a singularly hybrid artwork, transforming brushstrokes on a wall into architectural sculpture. Al-Hadid works alone in her large studio, projecting a composite image constructed from parts of Italian Renaissance paintings onto a far wall. “I love storytelling, I love stories, and I love novels and characters. But there’s a part of me that resists that kind of specificity. I like to hold back and be more ambiguous,” says Al-Hadid.

Listening to an audiobook of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel Anna Karenina, Al-Hadid lays down an equally grand image on the studio wall, quickly painting out an ambitious figurative scene with slashing brushstrokes. Later, Al-Hadid’s assistants “back” these individual strokes using a mix of gypsum, fiberglass, and plaster, painstakingly preserving the liquid energy and lyricism of Al-Hadid’s original gestures. Al-Hadid and her assistants then peel the backing off the wall and dramatically reveal what now looks like an expanse of delicate medieval tracery.

“With every project, I’m kind of asking, how can I re-think this process that I’ve become familiar with?” asks Al-Hadid. Installed at OHWOW Gallery, the work has yet again been transformed. Seamlessly melded into the gallery’s white walls, the once painting is now a floor-to-ceiling sculpture—a threshold between the space’s front and back in which the artwork’s negative space creates an opening that viewers can walk through.

More information and credits

Featuring the works Sinking and Scaffolding (2015), Smoke and Mirrors (2015), and Smoke Screen (2015) from the exhibition Ground and Figures.

Credits

Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Producer & Editor: RAVA Films. Cinematography: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Additional Camera: Marc Levy. Sound: Nick Ravich & Ava Wiland. Design & Graphics: Open. Artwork: Diana Al-Hadid. Music: Mike Link & Harvey Taylor. Thanks: Nick Joyce, OHWOW Gallery, Lydia Ruby, Tantor Media, Inc., Marichris Ty. An ART21 Workshop Production. © ART21, Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Art21 New York Close Up is supported, in part, by The Lambent Foundation; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Licensing

Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

Diana Al-Hadid

Diana Al-Hadid was born in 1981 in Aleppo, Syria. She was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and currently lives and works in New York. Al-Hadid’s large-scale sculptures and wall hangings are the outcome of process-based investigations into materials, including fiberglass, polymer, steel, and plaster. Exploiting the innate tension between mass and gravity, Al-Hadid is particularly interested in the point at which her works are fixed to the ground, often seeking to create what she describes as “something that seems improbable.”

“My work isn’t really one decision that’s stable—it’s a lot of interwoven and fluctuating decisions.”

Diana Al-Hadid

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