Abdu’Allah named Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art

February 19, 2021

Faisal Abdu’Allah, an internationally acclaimed artist and professor in the School of Education’s Art Department, has been chosen as the next recipient of UW-Madison’s Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art.

Abdu’Allah, who grew up in London, was enjoying a successful professional career as an artist when he was invited to UW-Madison in 2013 to work on campus as the Arts Institute’s interdisciplinary artist-in-residence. . He was then invited to return to UW-Madison in the fall of 2014 to join the art department as a faculty member, and became a highly valued educator and mentor.

Faisal Abdu’Allah is an internationally acclaimed artist and professor in the School of Education’s Art Department. (Photo by Sarah Maughan UW-Madison School of Education)

“Faisal Abdu’Allah has established himself not only as a groundbreaking and respected artist who has shown his work around the world, but he has also proven himself to be an exceptional teacher for our students at UW-Madison,” said the dean of the school of education. Diana Hess. “I am very pleased to announce that Faisal has been awarded the prestigious Chazen Family Distinguished Chair of Art.”

Abdu’Allah graduated from the Royal College of Art in London, where he trained as an engraver. Her work often evolves from the interface of photography, print media, film, installation and performance. This art has been widely exhibited, including at: National Maritime Museum London (2020); FotoFest, Houston (2020); Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Gran Canaria, Spain (2019); Somerset House, London; Pā Rongorongo, Auckland, New Zealand (2019); and the 55th Venice Biennale, Italy (2013). His works are also part of the collections of Tate Britain (London), V&A (London), Chazen Museum (UW-Madison), CAAM (Gran Canaria, Spain) and the British Arts Council.

Abdu’Allah, who is also a barber, is currently featured on Red Bull Television’s ‘The Fade’. A preview of the film explains how “the barber chair can mean so much more than just a shave or a haircut. Barbers from the US, UK, Ghana and Jamaica show how their profession helps define culture, community and masculinity. »

Abdu’Allah is also working on launching upcoming projects with Sir David Adjaye, the Ghanaian-British architect, and Quarra Stone Company in Madison. This work will be presented at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). In the past he has collaborated with fashion designer Virgil Abloh and choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. He has also written for Artimage, Te Tuhi and Create London.

In addition to being a faculty member in the Department of Art at UW-Madison, Abdu’Allah is also Director of Faculty at The Studio, a residential learning community at UW-Madison. He is an Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Bedfordshire (UK).

“Faisal Abdu’Allah is an artist who works in printmaking, photography, performance and sculpture. He is truly interdisciplinary with his creative output in prints, photographs, installations and performances,” says Derrick Buisch of UW-Madison, professor and head of the art department. “Abdu’Allah is well acquainted with the international conversation on contemporary art. His work addresses resonant political and social themes with poetic depth. His future creative research is exciting, with excellent potential to generate more innovative and original works.

Engraving of Faisal Abdu'Allah
“Faisal Abdu’Allah (left) is an artist who works in printmaking, photography, performance and sculpture. He is truly interdisciplinary with his creative output in prints, photographs, installations and performances,” says Derrick Buisch, Professor and Head of the Art Department.

“His regular international exhibitions clearly demonstrate his visibility and commitment,” adds Buisch. “He is a great role model for our students in terms of professional engagement with the visual arts in the field. His knowledge of the various engraving methods and processes is invaluable. He works with a wide range of undergraduate and graduate students inside and outside the art department. »

One project Abdu’Allah spearheaded while in Madison is FauHaus – a community-based learning program for at-risk, court-involved teens who are overwhelmingly low-income youth of color. The teens worked with Abdu’Allah and his colleagues to collaboratively develop socially engaged art exhibits through weekly workshops and an artist-in-residence opportunity.

“Wherever I travel, the heading is the same,” Abdu’Allah said in a 2018 interview on the FauHaus project. “I’m going to meet a group of students less fortunate than me and I’m like, ‘If it hadn’t been for my strong family structure growing up, that could have been me.’ ”

‘Abdu’Allah’s efforts in this area focus on using the arts to connect with young people, nurture their creativity and confidence, and help give them a voice. This work often approaches racial disparities through the lens of equity and diversity.

“Anyone with support will fly,” he says. “Instead of young people becoming a representation of what some members of society expect, it is important to help people become their best selves.”

Abdu’Allah, who grew up in the UK as the child of Jamaican immigrants, also brings a unique global perspective to his work and the students he works with on campus.

“If I prepare my students to succeed, I have to get them to think like global citizens,” says Abdu’Allah, who is the current president of Southern Graphic Council International.

More than a decade ago, distinguished UW-Madison alumni Jerome and Simona Chazen donated $20 million to support the expansion of the university’s art museum. Formerly known as the Elvehjem Museum of Art, the institution was renamed in honor of the Chazens.

It was in September 2015 when the couple pledged another $28 million donation to their alma mater, in the form of several valuable works of art from their private collection, an additional $5 million donation for the Chazen Museum Building and $3 million to establish both the Chazen Family Chair of Distinction in Art and the Simona and Jerome Chazen Chair of Distinction in Art History.

“Artists continue to be the vanguards and shapers of social consciousness shaped by a sense of duty to high ideals,” Abdu’Allah says. “Receiving the Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art will open up a realm of endless possibilities.”

Kayleen C. Rice