Diana Al-Hadid

May 15, 2010 - August 15, 2010



Sculptor Diana Al-Hadid constructs baroque architectural forms such as towers, labyrinths, and pipe organs that appear to be in a state of ruin. Using materials such as cardboard, plywood, plaster, and resin, Al-Hadid's sculptures are informed by an array of influences, both eastern and western–ancient Biblical and mythological narratives, Arabic oral traditions, Gothic architecture, iconic western painting, Islamic ornamentation, and scientific advances in physics and astronomy. For her first solo museum exhibition, Al-Hadid will be making a new piece inspired by the Islamic astronomer and inventor Al-Jazari's famous water clock built in 1206 and early Netherlandish Renaissance paintings.

Organized by Anne Ellegood, Hammer senior curator.



By Anne Ellegood

My work is impure; it is clogged with matter. I’m for a weighty, ponderous art. There is no escape from matter. There is no escape from the physical nor is there any escape from the mind. The two are on a constant collision course. You might say that my work is like an artistic disaster. It is a quiet catastrophe of mind and matter. —Robert Smithson (1)

Diana Al-Hadid’s sculptures are like Robert Smithson’s “quiet catastrophes,” moments of disaster and decay frozen in time and space. She builds elaborate, intensely physical, large-scale sculptures of what she has called “impossible architecture” in various states of decline. Depicting forms more historical than contemporary—cathedral spires, classical columns, large pipe organs, and Gothic towers, which are often toppled, fractured, or burned—her sculptures suggest ruins from a distant past. And yet Al-Hadid’s interest in science—the big bang theory, speculations about black holes, and the transformation of matter through particle accelerators—and the works’ visual associations with the violent incidents that characterize current wars and political upheavals place these objects firmly in the present. Moreover, her fascination with science fiction and notions of time travel catapult her works into the future. Al-Hadid’s sculptures seem to traverse time, from the ancient to the present, along a long and sweeping trajectory.

For the past several years Al-Hadid has made discrete objects, larger than human scale yet situated in the middle of the gallery so that visitors can easily walk around them. The imposing Spun to the Limits of My Lonely Waltz (2006) is a charred and discolored cathedral turned on its head so that the typically transcendent spires become sharp daggers pushing into the ground. The Tower of Infinite Problems (2008) is in a further state of decomposition, the tower completely felled and broken apart, the crumbling facade revealing only the spiraling labyrinth structure beneath. For her exhibition at the Hammer Museum, Al-Hadid has chosen to create a multifaceted sculptural installation consisting of several interdependent parts, which occupies the entire gallery. Visitors physically enter the work rather than walking around its periphery and, in some sense, observe the work from within. Titled Water Thief, the sculpture is inspired by a water clock built in 1206 by Al-Jazari, a prominent engineer and inventor who lived in northeastern Syria, not far from the city of Aleppo, where Al-Hadid was born and lived until the age of five, when she immigrated to the United States with her family. (2) More


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