You don’t need to be a connoisseur to spot Mohamed Melehi’s work. The painter, photographer, muralist and graphic artist’s unique form of modernism is instantly recognisable, thanks to his trademark of bright, colourful waves. Tracing influences from New York to Germany, Frank Stella to Bauhaus, the Moroccan’s work is kaleidoscopic and rebellious, an energy that he established with a famed street exhibition in Marrakech in 1969.
Now, you can check out some of his most significant pieces at Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue at New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives. Originally curated by Morad Montazami, the show maps Melehi’s career from the 1950s to the 1980s, with a smattering of his contemporary works also present. The exhibition also includes an archived collection of documentary photography, showcasing his passion for travel and visual activism, spanning 30 years.
“The relevance of Mohamed Melehi’s artistic legacy goes back to his pioneering role in a post-colonial and cosmopolitan art history,” explains curator Morad Montazami. “Rooted in the independence of Morocco in 1956, his ability to navigate the shifting borders of the region allowed him to create a genuine visual culture for the development of the Global South. Anybody interested in rethinking those borders today can find a true inspiration in him.”
The Dubai exhibition will give an insight into the radical development of the Casablanca Art School, led by Melehi and a small group of artists between 1964 and 1974. Archives display the direction at the time, focusing on collective knowledge, pushing students to expand their inspiration beyond Western art history, and delve into the rich cultural scene on their doorstep.
“Alserkal Arts Foundation is honoured to present this major survey of Melehi’s work and the Casablanca Art School,” says Vilma Jurkute, director of Alserkal Avenue. “We hope that the extensive documentation of his work will initiate new research and further historical discourse beyond regional geographies, resonating with our academic communities here.”
To say that Mohamed Melehi influenced the MEASA (Middle East, Africa and South Asia) region’s artistic history would be an understatement – his work was pivotal, and is still prominent. But as the exhibition moves from London to Marrakesh to Dubai, it’s clear that his work transcends cultures, borders and even time itself.
New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives, Alserkal Avenue Dubai, March 14 to April 4