• Dala Nasser: Adonis River
    Myriam Ben Salah
    The Renaissance Society, Chicago
    Sep 16, 2023 to Nov 26, 2023
    The Renaissance Society

Photo: Paul Girra (2023)

Dala Nasser’s new commission at the Renaissance Society (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. The myths surrounding this river were, and still are, commemorated in local holidays of mourning and grief. At the Ren, Nasser uses large-scale paintings to echo certain forms of architecture (the temple of Adonis or a bridge over the river) and will divide the Ren’s gallery into delineated spaces—in effect transforming into architecture or stages themselves. To create her paintings and structures, Nasser uses a range of materials from specific sites and physical processes such as burying, soaking, dyeing, imbedding, and rubbing. In this way, her project evokes the physical landscapes associated with this river and its local mythology. The exhibition is organized by Myriam Ben Salah, with Karsten Lund and Michael Harrison.

Dala Nasser received her bachelor’s of fine arts from Slade School of Fine Arts and her MFA at Yale School of Art. A material-based artist working through abstraction and alternative forms of image-making in painting, performance, films, and structures, she applies an interdisciplinary approach to examine histories, ecologies, and toxicity, producing context-specific installations. Her works address human and nonhuman entanglements in the perpetually deteriorating environmental, historical, and political conditions resulting from extraction and generations of colonial erasure. Nasser’s work was featured in the 58th Carnegie International and Sharjah Biennial 15. Her work has also been shown internationally at BetonSalon, Paris; Beirut Art Center; Victoria Miro, London; and Deborah Schamoni, Munich. Residencies and prizes include Boise Travel Scholarship; Sursock Museums Emerging Artist Prize; artist-in-residence at Ashkal Alwan, Beirut; Gapado AiR, South Korea; and VO Curations, London. Myriam Ben Salah previously included Nasser in a 2018 group exhibition at Ghebaly Gallery, LA.

Myriam Ben Salah joined the Ren as director and chief curator in 2020 after coorganizing Made in LA 2020, the Hammer Museum’s biennial. From 2009 to 2016 she was responsible for special projects and public programs at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, focusing on performance art, moving image, and publishing initiatives. In 2018 she was the guest curator of the 10th edition of the Abraaj Group Art Prize. She was editor-in-chief of Kaleidoscope Magazine from 2016 to 2019. At the Ren she conceives of and oversees the entire exhibition and publication program as well as an ongoing program of lectures, concerts, and events in close collaboration with the Ren’s curatorial staff. She is a contributor to numerous art publications and catalogues and sits on acquisition juries. She holds a master’s degree in media art and culture from HEC, Paris, and a bachelor’s degree in theatre and performance from La Sorbonne.

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (the Ren) is an independent, non-collecting contemporary art institution that combines an experimental ethos, great flexibility in working with artists, and rigorous forms of critical inquiry. The Ren sets out to reimagine institutional practices and reduce barriers to creativity while also providing a strong intellectual framework around every project. All of the programs are free and open to the public. For over 100 years, since its founding in 1915, the Ren has been a crucible for creative innovation and a place of empathetic dialogue between thought-leading artists and curators.