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Issue 241

The Miner’s Magic of Diana Al-Hadid

At Kasmin, New York, the artist’s new body of sculptures and drawings feel frozen between solid and liquid

BY Rebecca Rose Cuomo in Exhibition Reviews | 05 JAN 24

Diana Al-Hadid opens portals into other worlds. In ‘Women, Bronze and Dangerous Things’, the artist’s first solo show at Kasmin in New York, Al-Hadid presents a sophisticated new body of more than 20 works developed over the last five years. Upon entering the gallery, visitors are transported into a parallel universe where the familiar laws of physics do not apply. Objects transitioning between solid and liquid are frozen in flux, seemingly caught in the act of melting or congealing. Volumes materialize through intricate interplays between mass and void.

Diana Al-Hadid, Blue Medusa, 2023, mixed media. 213 × 246 × 7 cm. Courtesy: © Diana Al-Hadid and Kasmin Gallery

Three large-scale sculptures occupy the central gallery space. These are encircled by an array of wall reliefs, drawings on mylar and works on paper produced during the artist’s recent residency at Dieu Donné, New York. In the monumental sculpture Mother Splits the Moon (2023), an avalanche of filiform stalactites cascades above and around a plinth of superimposed planes. The installation is an alchemy of industrial materials – concrete, steel, gypsum, fiberglass, urethane, chicken wire, plaster and paint – turned geological phenomena. Through this sedimentation of gravity-defying drips and pours, Al-Hadid constructs a floating mountain, an insurmountable peak that can only be viewed from below by peering up into its visible insides. Invoking the miner’s magic, the artist here reminds us that precious stones are to be found within the Earth’s crust.

Diana Al-Hadid, The Bronze Chamber of Danae, 2023, mixed media, 292 × 239 × 7 cm. Courtesy:

© Diana Al-Hadid and Kasmin Gallery

The Bride in the Large Glass (2023) stands before the mountain. In this bronze sculpture, the bust of a woman appears on top of an ambiguous mesh-like structure that dissolves into puddles at the floor. The title brings to mind Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915–23), also known as The Large Glass, but visually the work is more reminiscent of Hans Memling’s painting Allegory of Chastity (1479–80), in which a Burgundian maiden is depicted encompassed by cliffs of amethyst rock. Al-Hadid’s references to art history are subtle, acquiring new depth of meaning through her innovative reinterpretation of signifier and symbology. This bride appears glassless and without a face, an abstracted etching of a woman ossified in metal. We don’t really see her; our minds fill her in. Wrapped around her absent body is an expanse of woven fabric, diaphanous and oxidized, perhaps an ode to Memling’s gemstone mountain. Spiky at the top and hollowed-out in the centre, does the form serve as a protective nest or a means of entrapment? In either scenario, this trace of a woman is entangled.

Diana Al-Hadid, Untitled (Mountain Series), 2023, conté, charcoal, pastel, acrylic on mylar, 56 × 46 cm

© Diana Al-Hadid. Courtesy: the Artist and Kasmin Gallery

Standing alongside is Seed (2023), a bronze sculpture in which a similar female bust-etching emerges from a concrete pedestal. Here, the artist’s touch is cemented: fingers that once combed across liquid matter have left their indelible marks on a now-calcified ground – imprints of gestures like the ones we might make digging soil to plant seeds. Rising from the concrete, an enigmatic vortex, like a wisp of smoke or a vine, engulfs the barely there woman. Perhaps we are witnesses to the figure’s transformation, solve et coagula – a chemical phase change of condensation or sublimation – denoting arrival or departure from this realm. Planting is also a form of burial, albeit one that aspires to resurrection, to new growth. Evoking this liminal state, Seed holds the promise of a generative future.

Diana Al-Hadid, ‘Women, Bronze, and Dangerous Things’ was on view at Kasmin, New York, until 22 December 2023. 

Main image: Diana Al-Hadid, The Seven Sleepers and the Dog, 2023, polymer gypsum, fiberglass, steel, plaster, metal leaf and pigment, 127 × 127 × 7.3cm. Courtesy: © Diana Al-Hadid and Kasmin Gallery.

Rebecca Rose Cuomo is an independent curator and writer based in Brooklyn, USA.