Dala Nasser: Adonis River

Opening: Saturday, Sep 16, 2023 4 – 7 pm
Saturday, Sep 16 – Nov 26, 2023

University of Chicago
5811 S. Ellis Ave.
Cobb Hall, 4th fl.
Chicago, IL, 60637

In the fall of 2023, the Renaissance Society will present the first institutional solo exhibition of Beirut and London-based artist Dala Nasser, featuring a new site-specific commission responding to the expansive height and volume of the Ren’s exhibition space.

As an artist working through abstraction and alternative forms of image-making, Nasser applies an interdisciplinary approach through painting, performance, and film. Her indexical paintings of land, made through direct contact on location, stand in opposition to the sweeping vistas offered by traditional landscape painting. In contrast, Nasser’s canvases provide close-up views of the markings of political and environmental erosion and toxicity. Finding meaning in materials and physical processes, Nasser’s works examine the deteriorating ecological, historical, and political conditions that result from practices of capitalist and colonial extraction. In a growing body of work that foregrounds human and non-human entanglements, she takes the non-human as witness to ecologies of slow violence, colonial theft, and infrastructural failure in times where human language has been rendered insufficient or out of reach.

Nasser’s project at the Ren centers on the Adonis River (known in modern day Lebanon as the Abraham River) where the mythical Adonis, the mortal lover of the Goddess Aphrodite, was killed by a wild boar. To this day, the myths surrounding this river are commemorated in pilgrimages of mourning and grief. Nasser made the paintings for the exhibition inside the cave where Adonis was killed, on fabrics dyed with iron oxide-rich local clay and washed in the river’s water. Rather than hanging on walls, these works are configured into three-dimensional spatial environments that evoke the Adonis temple, the cave, and its surroundings.

Curated by Myriam Ben Salah.

DALA NASSER (b. 1990, Lebanon) received her BA from UCL Slade School of Fine Arts (2016) and her MFA in Painting from Yale School of Art (2021). Her work has been shown internationally, including at the Sharjah Biennial 15 in 2023; 58th Carnegie International “Is It Morning For You Yet?” in 2022; Kunstverein, Cologne (2022); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2021); BetonSalon, Paris (2019); Beirut Art Center, Beirut (2019); Sursock Museum, Beirut (2017).

This exhibition is supported by Maria Sukkar and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Photo: Paul Gorra