Diana Al-Hadid’s works are distinctive in style and material. Drawing on imagery from the Classical and Renaissance periods, Al-Hadid creates sculpture, wall pieces, and drawings that foreground her experimental use of materials. Her large sculptures, such as Phantom Limb, seem to be caught in a state of crumbling decay; architectural structures are fragmented or incomplete, figures are missing limbs, surfaces suggest the worn patina of ancient marble sculpture. Referencing the sensation that a missing arm or leg is still present, Phantom Limb is characteristic of many of Al-Hadid’s works, which evoke memory and long cultural history.
Al-Hadid expresses an interest in “dissolving as much of the mass [of sculptures] as possible.” She accomplishes this through a number of methods but most notably via distinctive vertical marks: drips, slashes, and lines that seem to cut through solid forms to reveal inner surfaces and structures. This vertical motif is carried through all of Al-Hadid’s works in this exhibition, drawing a formal relationship between her sculpture and paintings. In two-dimensional pieces, veils of vertical lines overlay and obscure imagery. Looking closely viewers may discern a rendering of Hans Memling’s Allegory of Chastity within the intricate surface of Still Life with Gold, or of Pontormo’s Visitation and Giotto’s Annunciation in her untitled drawings. The luscious abstract surfaces of the drawings are a result of an unusual process in which the image is drawn, covered over, and then revealed again. The resulting veiled images again reference memory, obscured over time.
In the bronze sculpture In Mortal Repose, the vertical drips take on further associations. As observed by Alistair Rider in the catalogue essay, In Mortal Repose “is a sculpture that proclaims that it is about the technique of casting.” Here, the female figure (contemporary, as indicated by the t-shirt, but still headless), melts into streams and puddles of bronze, terminating at the base of the work at her feet. The bronze has been made to look like the melted wax that the casting requires and, simultaneously, like the molten bronze that is poured into the mold. Al-Hadid’s love of tactile experimentation with processes and materials is clear, as is her interest in “getting a material to misbehave.”
Born in Syria, Diana Al-Hadid moved to Ohio with her family when she was a young girl. Commenting on her background, she has said, “I am in fact . . . an Arab woman living in New York who made work about fallen towers, but I am also a woman from the suburbs of Ohio who is deeply interested in Flemish painting and illustrations of built structures and myths . . . all these things are true, but they feel a little different depending on the order you put them in and what you leave out.”
In the decade since she received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Al-Hadid has exhibited widely throughout the US, Europe, Scandinavia, and the Middle and Far East. Recent solo exhibitions have been mounted at the Vienna Secession, Austria; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greenboro, NC; and UCLA Hammer Museum, among others. Her work was included in Glasstress 2015, an official collateral event of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015; Invisible Cities, Mass MoCA in 2012; and Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, The Saatchi Gallery, London, and the Sharjah Biennial 9, both in 2009. Al-Hadid is a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Sculpture, United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow, and a recipient of awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Tiffany Foundation, and Pollock-Krasner Foundation.
Diana Al-Hadid: Phantom Limb was organized in collaboration with the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.