Marking his first exhibition in Los Angeles, French-Algerian artist Kader Attia has opened The Valley of Dreams at Regen Projects, marking a new wrinkle in an already expansive and complex body of work. Spanning a selection of both new and preexisting works in various media including a lightbox photograph, ceramics, sculptures, and a large-scale installation that continue his material and philosophical investigation of the notion of repair as a global, cultural phenomenon, the show is a perfect introduction to the artist’s work for the West Coast.
Attia’s practice is informed by his experience of living between and within two cultures. Mining a complex, research-heavy process to create his works, his pieces here address Los Angeles’s complex semiotic moorings, a critique of ideologies that points towards Western modernity and progress while so often taking a devastating human toll, particularly in places like Hollywood, where, in Attia’s words, “hopes and dreams are nurtured and then confronted with harsh reality.”
In one work, an illuminated lightbox depicts a pair of boys peering out over the Algerian breakwater into the Mediterranean, implying a connection between the European and African continents that seems to echo over so much of Attia’s work. The infinite expanse of ocean before them—the point of departure for many refugees—embodies the promise of a life elsewhere, emphasized by Attia’s 2007 installation Untitled (Skyline), which depicts a group of variously sized refrigerators entirely overlayed in mirrored tiles. Lit against a dark backdrop, the work produces a mirage of a glittering metropolis while also provoking associations both of consumerism and of basic human need. In contrast to these hopeful scenes, The Dead Sea (2016), a large-scale installation comprised of piles of blue garments lifelessly strewn across the gallery floor, silently memorializes the destruction left in the wake of the migrant crisis.
The show’s interest in exchanges and movements, of life and death as it extends across borders and timeframes, is posed here with a sense of both urgency and empathy, exploring a sense of longing and survival at the heart of global migrations, and the subsequent traces and hints of cultures that follow in its wake, mingling together and creating trails of change and exchange.
The show closes December 23rd.
– D. Creahan
Kader Attia at Regen Projects [Exhibition Site]