Mous Lamrabat’s vibrant, pulsating images subvert clichés. He shows his subjects as multifaceted, combining instantly recognisable symbols from across different cultural landscapes. In his current exhibition at Foam, Amsterdam, Nike logos are emblazoned across hybrid traditional and fashion garments; Kim Kardashian’s viral Paper magazine cover is reimagined with a niqab in place of a ballgown; and a figure mounted on a horse is draped from head to toe in red-heart-embossed fabric.
The Morocco-born photographer’s work is provocative but also full of joy, an explosion of saturated colours and sublime light. He has previously stated a desire to create a utopia in which people are loved and loveable, no matter their background or interests. X-Rated#1, created in 2017, highlights this joy.
The composition is clean, with a rich, rust-coloured sweep of sand that cuts into a warm yellow sky. On top of this simple, colour-blocked landscape, a single figure faces the sun. She is covered completely in luminescent fabric, bright coral that reflects a multitude of tones as the sun gleams from its surface. The figure is without a face or any discernable expression, but her pose radiates a powerful confidence. She looks free and happy, at one with the elements.
“The figure is without a face or any discernable expression, but her pose radiates a powerful confidence. She looks free and happy”
She stands with her arms out behind her, as though braced against the wind. Her exact form is obscured from the viewer, but her thighs and breasts are clearly distinguishable within the folds of fabric. Despite her total coverage, there is something inherently suggestive about her pose. The viewer is given just enough of a hint about the body underneath to fill in the remaining curves and crevices. The work’s title, X-Rated, points to the subversion of this image, and the power of the female body even when every inch of skin is hidden.
It comes from a series of works also called X-Rated. In the series, individual women draped in luxurious fabrics are situated against surreal sets and props: sand-filled interiors, burned-out cars, felled trees. The beauty of the fabric and uncanny nature of the images highlight Lamrabat’s eye for fashion photography. In these works, his figures are allowed to both shine and have their privacy left intact.
Emily Steer is Elephant’s editor
Mous Lamrabat: Blessings from Mousganistan is at Foam, Amsterdam, until 16 October