L.A. Artist: Rachid Bouhamidi

15 February, 2022
“Aura,” oil on can­vas and “Shiri in Green,” por­trait of an artist, oil on wood, 2022, Rachid Bouhamidi.


Rachid Bouhamidi


Q: How do you think grow­ing up in Los Ange­les and oth­er areas of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia has influ­enced the way you see the world and make art?


Grow­ing up in Los Ange­les I think has com­pelled me to try to find themes and a way of paint­ing that reach­es as many dif­fer­ent peo­ple as pos­si­ble. It has made me acute­ly aware of class and the divi­sive­ness of eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty and polit­i­cal dis­en­fran­chise­ment among the poor and immi­grants of col­or all over, although my work does not usu­al­ly address those issues directly.


Q: What role does myth and sto­ry­telling play in the cre­ation of your paintings?


From some ini­tial state or con­text, I’m try­ing to posit a new plane of mean­ing to the sub­ject mat­ter in my paint­ing which I do by assign­ing a kind of act­ing role for the peo­ple I depict. So my friend who is an artist and con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist becomes “the great sto­ry teller” whose speech is imbued with mag­i­cal qual­i­ties rep­re­sent­ed as float­ing lin­ear arabesques against pat­terned forms. A woman locked in iso­la­tion becomes the god­dess Artemis, frozen on a flat ter­rain in the act of hunt­ing. The sense that these paint­ings have myth­ic prop­er­ties or tell a sto­ry is some­thing that I think is very sub­tle and has as much to do with the per­son­al expe­ri­ence of mak­ing the paintings.



Q: How have recent events (Covid-19/quar­an­tine, racial inequal­i­ty and protests, the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, etc) affect­ed the sto­ries you tell? 


Usu­al­ly what I do is not direct­ly relat­ed to top­i­cal issues but the recent killings by police struck a very deep nerve and com­pelled me to respond in some way direct­ly. I drew about one hun­dred draw­ings of great Afro-Amer­i­cans and lumi­nar­ies from the African Dias­po­ra and donat­ed all the funds gen­er­at­ed from their sales to orga­ni­za­tions help­ing in the defense of Black lives and mar­gin­al­ized groups in the US. 


Q: What influ­ences have informed your choice of col­or and pattern? 


A: For many years I have tak­en inter­est in tra­di­tion­al Moroc­can tex­tile pat­terns and more recent­ly I began paint­ing a par­tic­u­lar pat­tern derived from a berber rug I used to fur­nish a house struc­ture I cre­at­ed some years ago. That pat­tern is present in dozens of paint­ings which I’ve used to set against the line work rep­re­sent­ing fig­ures and oth­er forms in much of my recent paint­ing. A fair­ly new devel­op­ment in my paint­ing is the use of a tech­nique of smear­ing and scrap­ping wet paint with a large palette knife which gives the sur­face a feel­ing of speed as I work over it with a brush. Col­or is an impor­tant expres­sive ele­ment in my work. Gen­er­al­ly, I try to work up the sur­face with high key and warm col­ors. I want the paint­ings to be as invit­ing to the view­er as possible.


Q: How does pat­tern and line affect the emo­tion­al weight of your paintings? 


A: Pat­tern and line is cru­cial in much of my work because it serves to alter­nate­ly estab­lish and dis­ori­ent the view­ers engage­ment with the paint­ing. It also defines some qual­i­ty of visu­al tempo.


Q: How has your stu­dio prac­tice been affect­ed by the quarantine?


The quar­an­tine and oth­er relat­ed events have altered what I’ve been mak­ing but par­tic­u­lar­ly the scale of the work I’m mak­ing. I went from build­ing a func­tion­al tea­house and large paint­ings ear­li­er in the year to paint­ing mod­est­ly sized paint­ings on pan­el and paper.


Q: Does draw­ing play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the pro­gres­sion of your work? 


A: I make small drawn stud­ies for near­ly every paint­ing. In one way, draw­ing is an impor­tant depar­ture point for the paint­ing. In anoth­er way, the paint­ing is essen­tial­ly some form of drawing.


Q: What are you work­ing on now? what are you look­ing for­ward to? 


I’m work­ing on an exten­sive series of draw­ings of musi­cians, com­posers and singer/ song­writ­ers which I plan to make a book of and am prepar­ing to exhib­it in Los Ange­les at LAST projects. I’m also prepar­ing for a show of recent paint­ings at galerie Tin­douf in Mar­rakesh in May and “Drag­on, Crab, Tur­tle” in st Louis, MO in June. I’m look­ing for­ward to devel­op­ing more of this merg­ing of fig­u­ra­tion, design, and abstrac­tion in my painting.

[From an inter­view with Nina Bel­lu­ci]


Artist Rachid Bouhamidi was born in Palm Springs in 1981 and raised in Southern California to a French mother and a Moroccan father. He started drawing about the time he first learned to pick up a pencil and took to the idea of being a serious artist when he was 14 after seeing an exhibition of etchings by Francisco Goya in Pomona, California. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006 and his MFA from Boston University in 2010. The formal and figurative concerns in Bouhamidi's work draw inspiration from his mixed cultural identity, from observations of the natural world and from popular art forms such as comics and by the working class culture of the Hispanic neighborhoods of Los Angeles. In Morocco he is represented by Galerie Tindouf in Marrakech, which shows a number of major Moroccan artists, among them Laila Essaydi and Tahar Ben Jelloun. See more of his drawings and other work on Instagram.


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