Katara, the Cultural Village, in collaboration with the Museum for African Art, New York, last night unveiled Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist, the first museum retrospective of acclaimed Sudanese artist, Ibrahim El-Salahi. The exhibition, which opened last night, will run until Tuesday 27th November 2012 at Katara Gallery, Building 22, Katara. The exhibition is guest curated by Dr. Salah M. Hassan, Cornell University.
This traveling retrospective is a celebration of the exemplary career of the Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi, chronicling the evolution of his artwork over more than fifty years of sustained artistic productivity and intellectual engagement.
Carefully selected, the works in this exhibition demonstrate the continuities and transitions of El-Salahi’s artistic journey, starting with his days as a student at the School of Design at Gordon Memorial College and the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art at University College, London; his return to Sudan in early 1960s through mid-1970s; through his eventual self-imposed exile from Sudan and expatriation to Qatar and the UK in the mid-1970s; and ending with his residency at Oxford, England from the late 1980s to the present.
Guest Curator Dr. Salah M. Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African diaspora art history and visual culture, and Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University commented: “El-Salahi has long been one of the most impressive figures in African and Arab modernist art, and has made foundational contributions to this movement. His remarkable creative and intellectual energy truly come to life in his diverse body of work, marked by innovative visual vocabulary and a spectacular style.”
The motifs and images, styles and forms of El-Salahi’s work have drawn from a great array of classical and traditional African, Arab, and Islamic visual sources as well as from European ones. His unique painterly language and praxis have left indelible marks on the arts scene today, acting as a formative influence on the work of a generation of artists in Sudan and elsewhere in Africa and the Arab world. It was under the leadership of El-Salahi in Sudan that the Khartoum School became recognized for producing generations of artists with distinct and innovative styles.
Sa’id Costa, Curator of Visual Arts Exhibitions and Educational Programs said, “El-Salahi displays a unique ability to explore different themes, blending his experience travelling the globe with his cultural roots. We are delighted to collaborate with New York’s Museum for African Art in celebrating this extraordinary exhibition by the talented Ibrahim El-Salahi. We look forward to welcoming visitors who will no doubt be inspired by the magnificent works. This exhibition is a testament to Katara’s commitment to educate and entertain, whilst building cultural bridges.”
El-Salahi’s contributions, while distinctive and unique, show striking resemblances to those of pioneer African and Arab modernists such as Skunder Boghossian, Dumile Feni, Ernest Mancoba, Mahmoud Said, Shakir Hassan Al Said, and Gerard Sekoto, among other important figures whose decades-long journeys have transformed visual art in Africa and the Arab world.
In this regard, El-Salahi’s accomplishments offer profound possibilities for both interrogating and repositioning African modernism in the context of modernity as a universal idea, one in which African or Arab art history is part and parcel of a global art history. Hence, this exhibition is an attempt to reconstruct the remarkable journey of El-Salahi, and provide a critical look at his artistic contributions in an effort to expand the narrative of modernism in the visual arts from comparative and global perspectives.
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