Ousseinou Gasama, or “Hassan,” was born in a small village in Senegal on a date that is not known. Around 2010 he was seen living on the streets of a wine warehouse neighborhood in the Port of Barcelona. He was secretive and spoke very little, making and selling his art on sidewalks and spending any small amount of money that he came upon on batteries to listen to music on his radio. Hassan’s whereabouts are unknown and have been since 2012. He was hospitalized the last time he was seen, but it is thought that he currently lives somewhere in the south of Spain, under the care of social services.
The artist’s works are made on wood planks from wine crates—which he cut in different sizes with a small saw and carved with a utility knife. He utilized graphite and colored pencils to draw modular houses and functional geometric furniture (mostly tables and chairs) floating three-dimensionally on untouched backgrounds. His brief oeuvre offers a powerful and cohesive visual statement that is as concrete as it is enigmatic. In some ways, Hassan emulates (perhaps unknowingly) the formal qualities of architectural and technical drawings. His matter-of-fact abstraction, figurative geometry, and selective realism are, however, steeped in mystery—as if a plot that cannot be known has unraveled, or will be, in these eerily hermetic settings.
Hassan kept his working tools in a suitcase that never left him. He rendered his drawings meticulously and with an innate eye for design and composition, stamping—instead of writing—his signature with pieces of polished copper inlaid on the wood’s surface. In 2010, before disappearing, Hassan sold 80 works to a collector, which are now floating around the art world like emblems to be deciphered.