Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset
In Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset, a single work makes up the entire exhibition of the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is now open at the Biennale Arte 2022. Raw papier-mâché, grass, dirt, leaves, tea, coffee, and tobacco, combine to make the work’s 128 human-sized sculptural elements. Curated by Maya Allison, Executive Director of The New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, it presents a major new work by Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, and is accompanied by a monographic book publication, chronicling the artist’s work at the vanguard of the UAE’s art community over nearly four decades.
Ibrahim has spent the better part of four decades developing an intensely experimental and prolific art practice. He is known as a core member of “the five,” part of a tightly-knit group of experimental, conceptual artists who share his unflinching commitment to, and joy from, their work. That group includes Hassan Sharif, Abdullah Al-Saadi, Mohammed Kazem, and Hussain Sharif.
The commissioned artwork is derived from the artist’s deep connection to the physical environment of his hometown of Khor Fakkan – a city at the edge of the rocky Al Hajar mountains where they meet the waters on the east coast of the Emirate of Sharjah in the UAE. The exhibition title refers to his experience of the light there, where the mountains cast the town in afternoon shadow, obscuring the sunset on the west coast of the UAE. The color of the sculpture shifts from bright playful colors and forms to subdued black and white elements, and suggests undulating movement of bodies, mutation, and metamorphosis.
The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is curated by New York based Italian curator and artistic director Cecilia Alemani under the theme The Milk of Dreams, which questions the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses, and the connection between bodies and earth. In resonance with this theme, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s biomorphic sculptures cluster in undulating color and movement – suggesting bodies, mutation, and metamorphosis. These forms arrive from his physical dialogue with the materials of the work: accretions of papier-mâché are built up over loose skeleton structures that shift and settle into their final position as he works. Often incorporating actual earth, leaves, tea, coffee, and tobacco, the texture of the forms derives from his raw materials.
The exhibition is Ibrahim and Allison’s fifth collaboration and the third book that Allison has produced that studies Ibrahim’s work, with the first two looking at his work in the context of his milieu. The accompanying publication, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset / Works 1986 – 2022 is the first monograph of Ibrahim’s work, and is co-edited by Allison and and Cristiana de March, herself an artist, poet, and curator, who has worked on writing and editing books related to this artistic community for some time. The editors have commissioned new texts that explore Ibrahim’s work from multiple vantage points, representing a major contribution to the UAE’s art history. Documenting and archiving part of the country’s longest-standing avant-garde art community, the book will make new material and histories available for future scholars, bringing these untold stories of the UAE into the contemporary art world narrative.
This exhibition marks the National Pavilion UAE’s move towards an artist-led approach, whereby Ibrahim nominated Allison to curate. The 59th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2022 is open to the public between 23 April – 27 November 2022.
Virtual tour of “Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunset and Sunrise” curated by Maya Allison