Mehdi Moutashar Frieze Masters
Lawrie Shabibi: Mehdi Moutashar at Frieze Masters
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From 11 to 15 October 2023, the Lawrie Shabibi gallery will be participating in Frieze Masters (The Regent’s Park, London, UK) for the first time. The gallery will display artworks by French-Iraqi artist Mehdi Moutashar in the Frieze Spotlight section, which features solo presentations of 20th-century artists and highlights under-appreciated work from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Mehdi Moutashar, Six formes décalées (Six staggered forms), Paris, 1968. Gouache and Indian ink.
26.7 x 22.5 cm. | 10 1/2 x 8 7/8 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photo by Lionel Roux.

Mehdi Moutashar (b. 1943, Hilla, Iraq) is interested in time and space and how they move over surfaces. Influenced by abstract kinetic art and Op-Art, his art lies at the intersection of the Western tradition of geometric abstraction and the Islamic tradition of geometrical order and lines. At Frieze Masters, Lawrie Shabibi will present Moutashar’s paintings and drawings that demonstrate his early experiments with the language of geometry. Unfortunately, most of his 20th-century artworks were destroyed in 2003 by the flood in Arles (a French town where Moutashar lives), so the gallery will display the few remaining pieces.

Mehdi Moutashar, Sans titre / Untitled, Arles, 1978. Silkscreen and collage.
64.7 x 50 cm. | 25 1/2 x 19 3/4 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photo by Lionel Roux.

After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad, in 1967, Moutashar was given a grant to study at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. There, at first, working predominantly on paper, he creates linear geometric Indian ink drawings and gouaches in saturated tones. An example of these early 1967 works will be on view at Frieze. Later that year, two moments were to have a lasting influence on Moutashar’s work: the Lumière et Mouvement exhibition, which was dedicated to kinetic art, and the discovery of German-French artist Jean Arp’s work. Moutashar was fascinated by lightness, freedom, and playfulness in his art.

Mehdi Moutashar, Sans titre / Untitled, Paris, 1968. Gouache.
37.8 x 35.5 cm. | 14 7/8 x 14 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photo by Lionel Roux.

In 1968, Moutashar started to create a series of new geometric compositions by cutting out, rearranging, and rotating coloured paper shapes. The artworks from this series titled Parallèlles are composed of linear lines in saturated colours arranged in undulating geometric configurations. On display at Frieze Masters will be two works from the series: Parallèlles 3 (1968) and Parallèlles (1968).

Mehdi Moutashar, Parallèles, Paris, 1968. Acrylic on cardboard mounted on wood.
55 x 66 x 4.9 cm. | 21 5/8 x 26 x 1 7/8 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photo by Lionel Roux.

In 1969, Moutashar focused on the square and black-and-white colour schemes. Employing the square as a starting point, he produced a series of “square paintings” titled Zones. At Frieze, one will be able to see Zone 1, Paris (1969), the artist’s first square painting. Through these paintings, Moutashar reconnected with Islamic art and his cultural heritage.

Mehdi Moutashar, Zone 1, Paris, 1969. Indian Ink on cardboard mounted on wood.
82 x 82 x 4 cm. | 32 1/4 x 32 1/4 x 1 5/8 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Lawrie Shabibi.

In 1979, he created works for his solo exhibition in Baghdad titled Mehdi Moutashar. Launched on 3 January 1980, it comprised five large rectangular canvas paintings in black combined with painted aluminium bars positioned at different angles. While referring to Moutashar’s earlier exploration of rotating patterns and squares, these artworks also mark the beginnings of his 3D paintings. Combinations of various materials (canvas, wood, aluminium, etc.) to create optical experiences define Moutashar’s contemporary practice. Two of the paintings exhibited in Baghdad were destroyed. Lawrie Shabibi will showcase Deux rectangles dont un pivoté de 15° (1979), one of the three remaining art pieces.

About the artist

Mehdi Moutashar graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts (Baghdad, Iraq) in 1966 and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 1970. From 1974 to 2008, he worked as a professor at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (Paris). In 2018, Moutashar became a joint winner of the Jameel Prize 5 at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) (London).

Mehdi Moutashar, Zone double, Arles, 1977. Acrylic on cardboard and collage mounted on
116 x 79.7 x 2.8 cm. | 45 5/8 x 31 3/8 x 1 1/8 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photo by Lionel Roux.

The artist has displayed his works in numerous solo and group exhibitions, which include TRAME (Abbaye de Cluny, France, 2022); Abu Dhabi Art Fair with Lawrie Shabibi (Abu Dhabi, UAE, 2021); Racines carrées (AL/MA Gallery, Montpellier, France, 2021); Small is beautiful! (Galerie Denise René, Paris, 2021); Structure du Silence (Galerie Denise René, Paris, 2021); Espace Oblique (Galerie Denise René, Paris, 2018); Bagdad Mon Amour (Institut des Cultures d’Islam, Paris, 2018); and many others.

Moutashar’s art can be found in such collections as Barjeel Art Foundation (Sharjah, UAE); Dalloul Art Foundation (Beirut, Lebanon); Centre National des Arts Plastiques (Paris); Victoria & Albert Museum (London); Kleine Museum (Weissenstadt, Germany); Montbéliard Museum (France); National Gallery of Fine Arts (Ammann, Jordan); Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris); Modern Art Museum (Tunis); and others.

To get more information about the presentation of Moutashar’s works at Frieze Masters, please visit Lawrie Shabibi’s official website.

You may also be interested in looking at Your Message Could Not Be Delivered, an immersive installation at The Project Space (NYUAD).

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