THE DUPPY CONQUEROR & Other Works
15 December 2017 – 14 April 2018
Autograph ABP presents The Duppy Conqueror & Other Works, a solo exhibition by visual artist Faisal Abdu’Allah (b. 1969, London). Through his interdisciplinary practice encompassing photography, print-making, video, sculpture, drawings and installation, Abdu’Allah asks probing questions in relation to history, myth, faith, masculinity, memory and violence, as well as race, representation and iconography. The exhibition is curated by Mark Sealy MBE, Director of Autograph ABP
The title of the exhibition refers to Abdu’Allah’s new photo tapestries, The Duppy Conqueror (2017), presented here for the first time. In this triptych, Abdu’Allah explores a masked alter-ego character known as the ‘Duppy Conqueror’. In Jamaican tradition, a ‘duppy’ is an evil ghost or spirit; this malevolent supernatural being resurrected by Abdu’Allah highlights the genocidal nature of violence against the black body, and the ongoing struggle with ghosts or spectres from the past, conjured by a hostile world dominated by ignorance and deception. As such, The Duppy Conqueror tapestries remind the audience of the many restless souls that haunt the earth in search of justice and recognition: a process curator Mark Sealy describes as ‘the violent stains of history and culture, the undead of our past as a matter of material refuse to be reconfigured and recycled to make the future new, rested and liberated.’
The Last Supper I + II re-presents a series of previous photo works (originally commissioned by Autograph ABP in 1994 and produced in collaboration with Kofi Allen) reworked as two large-scale photo-tapestries. In these elaborately staged tableaux, Abdu’Allah and Kofi Allen presents 12 young black men and women re-enacting Christ’s iconic final feast, dressed in everyday street clothes and Muslim garb. Heavily armed, these figures are locked somewhere in between zones of confrontation and protection – challenging the viewer into a critical dialogue about the past, present and the future.
Other works on display include After Kosuth (2012-17), a self-portrait that exists as a photograph, a photo etching on paper and a gold-plated bronze cast of the artist’s head. The work is a reflection of Abdu’Allah’s interest in transformation, states of consciousness and experimentation with multiple forms of printing, inspired by the work One and Three Chairs (1965) by American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth. By opting for a self-portrait in three different forms, Abdu’Allah questions the validity and accuracy of (self-)representation, and especially photography’s supposed ability to accurately reflect reality.
Finally, Head of State (1997) represents Abdu’Allah’s practice in the late-1990s, when he first began to experiment with architectural ‘photo-environments’: narrative site-specific gallery installations that juxtapose sculpture, three-dimensional objects and photographs. Here, large-scale wallpapers of bodies in a morgue and a life-size coffin are emblematic of inevitable encounters with death, conjuring up the experience of violence, loss and mourning. Abdu’Allah describes the resulting artificial realm as a ‘space of no escape’ and its gruesome affect is an admittance of the need for more social wakefulness.
New Sculpture commissions
In two new sculptural works commissioned by Autograph ABP, The Barber’s Chair and The Barber’s Clippers (2017), the artist’s studio and the barber’s salon are formally joined as ‘indistinguishable spaces of cultural activity and as sites for new reflections’. Gold-plated, evocatively lit and installed in a discrete gallery room painted black, these life-size works refer to the importance of the barbershop as a gathering place for black men: where an exchange of news and views occurs, a space to come of age / a rite of passage, as well as where intimacy and vulnerability between men are possible. For Abdu’Allah, who alongside his artistic and academic practice maintains a profession as a barber, the ritual of cutting/cultivating hair informs his work – the role black hair performs in foregrounding cultural difference, and the proliferation of story-telling throughout the process – and provides a means to bring these two different worlds together.
The Duppy Conqueror & Other Works is curated by Mark Sealy MBE at Autograph ABP.
‘The two key concepts that hold Abdu’Allah’s work in place are reflection and return. The human subject for Abdu’Allah is either bewildered, traumatised, dead or resurrected. Physical and mental turbulence haunt his practice and photography as a tool for capture serves his desire to reframe the past and make tangible the present. As a collective body his practice amounts to an informal and personal interdisciplinary “institute of information” that works to challenge the academies of science, philosophy and the arts, grounded in an acute understanding of the seductive nature of the material world and moulded through ongoing enquiries into how the visual works upon and within the construction of difference… If the relationship between history and violence represents unending and uneven threads of knowledge, when these dynamics are woven together we are primed to consider Abdu’Allah’s works as signposts towards a new becoming, and a place of human celebration and healing.’
DIRECTIONS AND OPENING HOURS
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Exhibition opening times
Tues, Wed, Fri 11am – 6pm
Thurs 11am – 9pm,
Sat 12 – 6pm
The gallery is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Public Holidays
We look forward to welcoming you to Autograph ABP. Admission to the exhibition is free and unticketed.
Visiting Autograph ABP
We are fully accessible with step free access to all areas of the building. A lift is available to all floors.
Gallery 1: The Duppy Conqueror & Other Works
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Gallery 2: The Duppy Conqueror & Other Works
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Children and group visits
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More about visiting
You are welcome to take photographs for personal use or social media, tag us @autographabp on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We do not allow photographs to be taken in the galleries with large SLR cameras.
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To protect the artworks, please do not bring food or drink into the galleries.
We welcome guide dogs , however cannot allow other dogs into the building.
Gallery 1 will be closed on Saturday March 24th between 1 - 3.30pm, this is due to the event Live Salon With Faisal Abdu’Allah.
Find out more about this event here >
The Duppy Conqueror & Other Works is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.
Autograph ABP would like to thank the University of Wisconsin-Madison for its support.