Light of the Harem, 2008
It is with great pleasure that the Schneider Gallery presents the new work of Lalla A. Essaydi. Essaydi continues to challenge, to complicate, and disrupt assumptions of the Western eye on the East.
These works are personal and collective, historic and contemporary. Some narratives grow from personal experience, others from “Western masters.” The fact that some of the works directly reference iconic Western paintings depicting the East is notable, deliberate, and to be expanded upon. Essaydi’s photographs work against the Western fantasy of the harem and the Arab Woman.
The Western view of the East, predominantly those of the Orientalists painters, persists. The weight of these references points to a continued struggle felt by the Arab Woman caught in Western projec-tions: either seen as women to be rescued or women to be controlled.
The Favorite, 2008
Essaydi’s photographs deny the Western vision; these women have self-ownership. Rather than nudes they are draped in text-covered fabrics, and set in more “realistic” domestic scenes. The gaze of the women, unlike the Orientalists depiction, is direct and works against both the tradition of voyeurism and the dominance of the male gaze.
The desire of Essaydi to question, to revaluate, and to eradicate these projections is accomplished, particularly in these works, for the women have absolute presence. What sets these new works apart from earlier pieces is their particular and delicate beauty, their confidant inviting strength.
May 1 - Jun 20, 2009. www.schneidergallerychicago.com
Standing Odalisque #2, 2008