Lehmann Maupin is pleased to announce Disfigurations, a collaborative exhibition featuring London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh and Berlin-based artist and curator Kader Attia. Attia and El-Sayegh share a deep interest in the underlying forces that shape our contemporary world—from the histories of colonialism, to the metastasis of the attention economy, to the impact of the infinite scroll on visual culture. Disfigurations places their work in dialogue to explore these ideas through fragmentation, part-to-whole relationships, and elements of fusion and synthesis, especially suture and collage.
Conceptualised as a visual conversation between El-Sayegh and Attia, Disfigurations brings the two artists together for the first time, presenting new sculptures from Attia's acclaimed Mirrors and Masks series alongside El-Sayegh's image-rich, densely layered canvases.
El-Sayegh is known for her transformation of exhibition spaces, often covering walls and floors with latex, paint, and other media to create large-scale immersive environments. Her work unites a diverse array of symbols and objects—El-Sayegh references a range of advertisements, international currency symbols, pop cultural imagery, and autobiographical materials (such as her father's Arabic calligraphy) as source imagery. Collected and collaged into a single canvas, drawing, or vitrine, her critical juxtapositions coax new meanings out of both familiar and unfamiliar signifiers to reveal connective threads through personal and shared histories.
Born and raised between the suburbs of Paris and Algeria, Attia's dynamic practice is informed by his multicultural experience. Spanning sculpture, photography, installation, and video, his researched-oriented work is rooted in anthropology, history, and politics. For over a decade, Attia has focused on the concept of injury and repair (whether physical, spiritual, cultural, or psychological), especially as it relates to the desire of Western cultures to shape the natural world or control the passage of time.
Attia is a connoisseur of tribal art and traditional African objects, and in his Mirrors and Masks series he intervenes into replicas of African masks through the application of fragmented mirrors. Each mask creates a Cubist portrait of the viewer and poetically illustrates the influence of African art on artists like Picasso and the broader development of Cubism. In Disfigurations, these sculptures investigate the ways that colonialism forces the reconstruction of individual and cultural identities, and symbolise Western culture's amnesic memory of the history of non-Western cultures. As the masks confront viewers with their own fragmented self-portrait, they also suggest a deeper, fractured self, gesturing towards Attia's recent interest in the fragmented subjectivity that arises from continuous connection across multiple online channels—a hallmark of the digital age.
Attia's mirrored masks are set in dialogue with a new body of works on canvas by El-Sayegh. The saturated and kaleidoscopic palette of El-Sayegh's work responds organically to the refracted light in Attia's fragmented surfaces. Created through a method of free association, these highly layered paintings function as membranes, absorbing disparate elements into their material 'bodies.' As such, El-Sayegh's paintings are themselves composed of fragments, their disjointed images and headlines diffused into hand-painted motifs and silkscreened ephemera. Attia's reflective sculptures further fragment El-Sayegh's paintings, enhancing their aesthetic depth and unspooling their internal narratives. This multiple mirroring creates a 'mise en abyme' of reflective surfaces and repeated patterns across the exhibition, bringing new work by El-Sayegh and Attia together in a series of close encounters.
Performance is an important part of El-Sayegh's practice, and she has performed globally, including her site-specific performance, En masse (2022), in collaboration with choreographer Alethia Antonia as part of the Move Festival, organised by the Centre Pompidou in 2022; the performance work Akathisia (2023) as part of her solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin New York; and most recently in Zürich, at the Tichy Ocean Foundation (2023). Recent solo and two-artist exhibitions include shows at Lehmann Maupin, New York (2023); Lehmann Maupin, Seoul (2022); UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles (2022); Sursock Museum, Beirut (2019); Bétonsalon, Paris (2019); and Chisenhale Gallery, London (2019).
In 2022, Attia curated the 12th edition of the Berlin Biennale. Recent solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha (2021); BAK – basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht (2021); Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich (2020); Sesc Pompeia São Paulo, São Paulo (2020); Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), Berkeley (2019); and the Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2019).
Press release courtesy Lehmann Maupin.