September 17, 2022 through January 15, 2023
DARK MATTER by British artist Faisal Abdu’Allah explores cultural representation and the systems of power that structure our experiences of the world.
DARK MATTER includes a selection of the artist’s most celebrated series, as well as a reconstruction of Garden of Eden (2003), an architectural installation the artist created in collaboration with renowned architect Sir David Adjaye. Exploring issues of privilege, exclusion, and the voyeuristic gaze, this interactive piece separates visitors based on genetic traits—in this case, eye color—in order to undermine our perceptions of difference and alienation. With Garden of Eden, Abdu’Allah points to the privileges conferred to certain people based on the nuances of their genetic matter.
In other works Abdu’Allah uses human hair, a carrier of DNA, and focuses on the ritual of cutting hair. Abdu’Allah is also a trained barber, a profession he has fully integrated into his artistic practice, most notably through his community-based Live Salon performances (2006–present). During each Live Salon session, he provides free haircuts to willing museum visitors and engages them in open-ended conversations about issues surrounding contemporary social identity and representation. In Hair Traits (2016–present), Abdu’Allah uses participants’ actual hair, which he blends into a fine powder to render their portrait on paper. Regarding his use of human hair, he explains, “Essentially, it brings their DNA, their identity, into the work. Our hair carries a trace of who we are, and it is extremely political. In the history of post-colonialism, the straighter your hair was, the higher up on the chain of respect you were.”
DARK MATTER will also feature a counter-monument by Abdu’Allah, which he first conceived of several years ago in response to debates about the role of monuments and their removal from public view. His solution was to commission artists of color to create new monuments that represent their own aesthetics, histories, and experiences. Commissioned by MMoCA, Blu³eprint was realized in collaboration with the fine arts team at Quarra Stone Company in Madison and Italy-based master stone carver and sculptor Martin Foot. The counter-monument will be prominently placed at MMoCA as a public work of art.
About the Artist
Faisal Abdu’Allah is a British-born, Wisconsin-based artist and barber. He studied in London at the Royal College of Art. He is Professor of Printmaking and Associate Dean for the Arts in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In 2021, Abdu’Allah was named the Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art at UW-Madison.
Presenting Sponsorship for Faisal Abdu’Allah: DARK MATTER has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.