Hassan Hajjaj

'1444'

Hassan Hajjaj’s photographs present a vast array of stylistic references, reflecting the amalgamation of influences that make up both his home country of Morocco and the United Kingdom where he currently resides. Hajjaj’s models don bright colors and are set by the artist within environments of clashing patterns. The portraits are often shot on playful makeshift backdrops positioned outside of his London store, Larache Shop, resulting in maximalist mises-en-scène. Each work is arranged in a custom frame consisting of niches that contain various commercial goods like tea boxes or cans of harissa, a Pop Art nod to the various brands and products that are intrinsically tied to cultural identity.

Signature image for Hassan Hajjaj exhibition
Hassan Hajjaj, "Naabz Chanel," 2012/1433, metallic Lambda on 3mm Dibond in poplar sprayed white frame, 38 x 56 1/2 x 3 in., edition of 7. Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York. © Hassan Hajjaj.

The exhibition presents work from two series, My Rockstars and Vogue: The Arab Issue alongside select garments that appear in these photographs. In My Rockstars, Hajjaj photographs friends, artists, and performers around the world — from British painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye to American rap superstar Cardi B — in patterned sets consisting of textiles typical of North Africa. In Vogue: The Arab Issue, models wear garments — like caftans, babouches, and hijabs — sourced from the local markets where they are photographed, yielding images that embrace Islamic culture while challenging Western stereotypes and beauty biases.

About the artist

Hassan Hajjaj (b. 1961, Larache, Morocco) creates vibrant, boldly patterned portraits of friends, colleagues, celebrities, and members of his community that express evolving notions of self and society in today’s globalized, connected world. The artist captures his subjects in ad hoc studios set up on the street, further contributing to the works’ international blend of music, fashion, and popular culture. Inspired by street style and hip hop, Hajjaj draws influence from African photographers including Sanlé Sory (b. 1943, Nianiagara, Burkina Faso), Samuel Fosso (b. 1962, Kumba, Cameroon), and Malick Sidibé (b. 1936, Soloba, Mali; d. 2016, Bamako, Mali). From these historically significant artists, Hajjaj absorbed the idea of studio portraiture as a malleable vehicle for identity definition. In his own works, he reshuffles cultural signifiers to portray a world in which individuals draw from diverse international sources to define who they are. The artist came of age in London in the 1980s and ’90s, and his own contributions to the city’s nightlife and street style are reflected in the cultural mission of his photographs. As the artist explains, “In the ’80s, London was just starting to blend. We all came from different backgrounds. We had to create something to find our space.” Hajjaj achieves this spirit of cultural comingling and co-creation in his images through blending, juxtaposing, and mirroring traditional Moroccan patterns with contemporary signifiers of global style and consumption.

Hajjaj has presented his work internationally in group and solo exhibitions at Barakat Contemporary, Seoul; Fotografiska, Stockholm; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi; Somerset House, London; British Museum, London; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. His work is held in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, and others.

Credits

1444 is organized by SCAD Museum of Art curator Ben Tollefson and presented as part of SCAD deFINE ART 2023.

More on view