"Through his colorful abstractions that resemble bodies of water, forest floors, and drought maps, Azzuz explores the entangled beauty and wisdom involved in Native land management practices."
- Sandra Hale Schulman, Artsy
Azzuz's paintings straddle abstraction and surrealism in their sweeping use of color, sensual movement, and evocation of the natural world. The paintings are full and alive, pressing their power up to the very edges of the canvas, resisting their frames. The shapes he makes are like liquid leaves-stretching, reaching, pulling, pushing, almost vibrating with the cycles of the seasons. Azzuz uses a series of personal gestural marks and an iconography derived from the traditions and native land of his peoples. His work reflects the resilience of Indigenous cultures and the importance of a holistic connection with the land, while simultaneously confronting the history of colonialism and manifest destiny.
The ghostly images of plants that cover Azzuz's canvases are created by spraying various pigments (spray paint, dyes, inks) on top of native and invasive plant species which have been laid on top of the canvas, thus incorporating the land into each painting. Azzuzis color palettes are taken from the drought and fire maps from California in 2021.
His work revolves around the de-contextualization of Yurok and Arab imagery. Starting with stories by, of, and for family members, Azzuz constructs spaces utilizing colorful ink and acrylic paint on tapestry-like canvas imbuing the work with the washy luminosity and gentle disquiet of dreams. The titles for his pieces are conversational and often include Yurok language, further highlighting traditional and contemporary culture side-by-side, and asserting Yurok people's deep, ongoing commitment to land stewardship. Through self-defined symbolism communicating ideas such as movement, energy and time, Azzuz works to acknowledge and validate generational trauma, resilience, land and story.
Saif Azzuz (b. 1987) is a Libyan-Yurok artist who resides in Pacifica, CA. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Painting and Drawing from the California College of the Arts in 2013. Azzuz has exhibited widely in the Bay Area, including exhibitions at Anthony Meier Fine Arts, Pt.2 Gallery, Adobe Books, Ever Gold [Projects], NIAD, Rule Gallery, 1599dt Galler and a forthcoming solo exhibition at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery in 2023. Azzuz is a 2022 SFMOMA SECA Award finalist and has participated in the Clarion Alley Mural Project and the Facebook Artist in Residence program.
Selected public collections include Rennie Museum, de Young Museum - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Facebook, North Carolina Museum of Art, Stanford Health Care Art Collection and UBS Art Collection.