Diana Al-Hadid: Delirious Matter

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday May 31, 2018

Diana Al-Hadid, a celebrated artist who has had more than 20 solo exhibitions at museums and galleries around the world, creates sculpture that challenges the materiality of its stuff as well as the forces of gravity, and mural-size drawings of intricacy and beauty from industrial materials. Delirious Matter, her first public art commission, which is currently on view at Madison Square Park, offers visitors a chance to experience an art history in the making as they engage with a field-size agora sited on the Oval, three headless female figures arising from seemingly self-made plinths on the periphery, and a peaked flower-like orb that emerges from the North reflecting pool.


The agora is defined by two walls formed of aluminum, steel, polymer gypsum, fiberglass and pigment on at either end of the rectangular area, which is further defined by rows of hedges on the long side. This enchanting place recalls ceremonial spaces of antiquity where ideas of freedom and democracy became public discourse, and refers specifically to the Roman myth of Mars Gradiva, who walked armies into battle. The artist’s roots in the Middle East, where atrocities seldom before seen continue to annihilate the people of her homeland, inform the emotional content of this intricately composed environment. 


Al-Hadid draws influences from the disrupted typologies of architecture, antiquity, cosmology, and Old Master paintings. She finds inspiration in numerous and varied sources such as ancient frescoes, caves, Northern Renaissance art, Islamic miniatures, ancient time-telling devices, and the modern sculpture of Italian Medardo Rosso. These various interests reflect her perspective as an immigrant from Syria who moved to Ohio when she was a child. She has said: “I was educated by Modernist instructors in the Midwest, but also was raised in an Islamic household with a culture that very much prizes narrative and folklore.” Her interest in dissolving the boundaries between architecture, landscape, and figuration, while considering how women have been depicted as objects throughout the history of art, is entwined in the new work.

At the time of the opening in mid-May Al-Hadid said, “I am thrilled to have my first large-scale public project on the lawns and in the reflecting pool of Madison Square Park. This is the first time my work will be made and seen at this scale. It’s my largest project by far and my largest audience. It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of the incredible history of art in the Park.”

The 36thin the series of sculpture exhibitions in the park, Delirious Matteris the first project by the artist and the first Conservancy commission to unite sculpture with plant materials.The apparent fragility of Al-Hadid’s materials—a poured polymer modified gypsum and fiberglass—is belied by its toughness and resilience. This inherent tension functions as an essential aspect of the installation.
Photos © Peggy Roalf

Mad. Sq. Art was launched by Madison Square Park Conservancy in 2004 to bring free public art programs to New York. The program has received extensive critical and public attention since its inception and has developed into a world-class cultural institution. Its ambition and scale expand each year alongside an increasingly diverse range of innovative, world-class artists. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram via the hashtags #MadSqArt#DianaAlHadid, and #MadSqDeliriousMatter.

Diana Al-Hadid was born in 1981 in Aleppo, Syria. She was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and currently lives and works in New York. Al-Hadid’s large-scale sculptures and wall hangings are the outcome of process-based investigations into materials, including fiberglass, polymer, steel, and plaster. Exploiting the innate tension between mass and gravity, Al-Hadid is particularly interested in the point at which her works are fixed to the ground, often seeking to create what she describes as “something that seems improbable.” 4AlexSim MP031019



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