First Hand: Ibrahim El-Salahi

Not so Restricted!.jpg

Ibrahim El-Salahi, Alphabets No. 2 (1962/re-worked 1968), oil on canvas, 29-3/8 x 24-3/4″; courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Among the run of Neo-Conceptualist bric-a-brac that is “Home is A Foreign Place; Recent Acquisitions in Context”, currently at the Met Breuer, Alphabets No. 2 comes as a welcome moment of introspection, quietude and reverie. The Sudanese painter Ibrahim El-Salahi (born 1930) is among the chief proponents of hurufiyya, a mode of abstraction in which Arabic script is subsumed within compositional structures derived from Cubism and Surrealism. “I began to break down the letters to find what gave them meaning”. Disassembling the word in service of truths that are expressly visual is a tough row to hoe. El-Salahi does so with becoming modesty.

© 2019 Mario Naves

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