Adel Abdessemed
Who's Afraid
of the Big Bad Wolf?

‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?’, 2011–12
Taxidermic animals, steel, wire
363.2 × 779.8 × 40 cm

After having employed the technique in 2010 for the cubes titled Taxidermy, Taxidermia, and Histoire naturelle, Abdessemed again used taxidermic animals a year later for this large bas-relief with its charred surface. The title of the work takes up the musical motif of Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? from a Disney cartoon of 1933, the year Nazism triumphed in Germany. That historical period is also referenced by the dimensions of the work, which are identical to Guernica, the 1937 painting in which Picasso denounced the fascist massacre in Spain.

The densely packed animals, purchased in specialized shops (as they were for Abdessemed’s earlier works), obliterate any sense of direction within the overall tableau: the paws, heads, and mouths of rabbits, squirrels, boar, deer, and fox with yellowish glass eyes all jostle up and down. This produces an effect of movement and potential violence—bared fangs ready to snap—which evokes the sense of threat often implicit in the realm of fables, as suggested by the title. Three wolves, for that matter, are visible among the animals. The work conflates various time-frames, from the fantastical time-scheme of fairy tales to the historic time-scale of human massacres via the timelessness of nature’s ineluctable cycles of predation. Also present are art-historical references to the bas-reliefs of classical antiquity, in which scenes teeming with combatants displayed decorative features very similar to ones found here.

Angela Megoni