Before immigrating to Europe and studying at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Algerian Driss Ouadahi studied architecture. His paintings of the ubiquitous high-rise, the legacy of Modern Architecture’s failed promise to improve the human condition, are renderings of impenetrable boundaries of steel, glass, and concrete.


Ouadahi’s imagery originates in part from the enormous public housing developments in Algiers that had been modeled on France’s habitation à loyer modéré (housing at moderated rents). In North Africa, these monoliths accommodate displaced rural populations; in Europe, they house immigrants from former colonies. They are symbols of the politics of class, religion, and ethnicity. Reminders of otherness.


In addition to the permutations of cityscape which Ouadahi has been exploring in the last few years, his work consists of two new types of paintings. The first are rigorously formal renderings of chain-link fencing that are both minimalist abstractions and a signifier of separation.


The second are depictions of tiled passageways, akin to subway systems like the Paris Métro. Fluorescent-lit and grimy, they are labyrinthian and claustrophobic. Ostensibly their purpose is movement from one place to another. But they feel more like blocked escape routes or morgues. They speak to restricted mobility in a supposedly global culture.

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