CATCH UP WITH THE ARTIST: Ibrahim Ali-SALAAM

Ibrahim Ali-Salaam is a local Boston-based contemporary artist. Inspired by the German Expressionist movement and Boston Expressionist reinterpretation, his work often focuses on the human form and ways in which its figure can be positioned and contorted. As such, Ali-Salaam’s work seeks to build an insightful commentary on the boundaries of society and culture in relation to identity and being. 

Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, Beautiful Little Monster #9

As a graduate of the Museum School (now known as the School of Museum of Fine arts), Ali-Salaam has been a professional artist for twenty years. His newest series of paintings entitled “Beautiful Little Monster”, an ongoing collaboration with his son, Joaquin (9), were featured in The Boston Globe and are on show among his solo exhibition ‘A Family Affair’ at the Brockton Public Library’s Joseph A. Driscoll Gallery this month. His latest work sheds light on both the joys and challenges of parenthood, as well as the connections between one’s sense of self, family, and caretaking.

Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, Beautiful Little Monster #3

We last checked-in with Ibrahim to Meet the Artist about a year ago, which you can revisit here. Given his current theme, centered on art which reflects on the passage of time, we were grateful to have the chance to sit down again for an aptly-timed Q&A session and catch up with the artist!

Q: How has the focus or style of your work changed (or stayed the same) over the years? Is there anything you noticed is unique to the works in your newest exhibition ‘A Family Affair’, whether intentional or not?

A: My work has definitely evolved over the years. For years I focused on still lifes. I loved drawing and painting banged up and abandoned bicycles, converse sneakers, and classic cars. However, the human form has always been a great passion of mine. I think that I was constantly trying to access the emotions and messages behind the form, and figuring out how to do that has taken a long time for me. These pieces are part of that exploration. What’s nice is that working with my son has allowed me to be looser in terms of gesture, and a bit less technical, as my work can tend to be quite academic. At the same time, I think that the ideas in this series are tighter than some of my prior work. 

Q: How did you and your son collaborate at a technical level while making the “Beautiful Little Monster” series? How do you convey to Joaquin the meanings and messages behind those pieces/the show, as a whole? What are his thoughts on all of the above?

A: I didn’t convey any particular meaning to Joaquin. He and I tend to work on art and craft projects quite a bit together, so he just saw this as another opportunity to do one. I like to think that it’s just another manifestation of the love I have for my son, and that he is fully aware of it! 

The series originated from Joaquin doing sidewalk chalk and, then, me painting that scene. Then he wanted to add to the painting. He added more imaginary drawings that he wished he had added, and it took off from there. 

Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, Beautiful Little Monster #10

Q: As a Boston-based artist, do you think the city has had any impactful role in the way you view and create art? How does the world of art within the Boston area compare, in your opinion, to other cities and places around the world?

A: The Boston art scene is tough – I feel like there are too many fish in this small pond with not enough venues or opportunities (and certainly not enough collectors!). Alas, that means that some of the best artists in Boston tend to New York. We have a severe brain drain problem. Certainly some great artists stay, but it would be wonderful to see Boston as an arts hub like it is for education, biotech, and sports. For a variety of reasons, I’m dedicated to Boston. I’m here for the long haul and want to contribute to making Boston the best arts city it can be. 

Q: Do you have an idea of the subjects/topics you’d like to focus your future art on? How do you see your art evolving over the next several years? Do you plan to continue collaborations with your son, Joaquin, over a longer-term?

A: Yes, I do plan on continuing my collaboration with Joaquin. I don’t know how long he’ll continue to want to work with me, but I would guess we have at least another five years ahead of us. I also have other series that focus on the concept of love and sacrifice for one’s family. This includes something I call my “car series”, which includes pieces up to a full-sized 1:1 painting of a car my parents owned at one point. I have a lot I still want to explore with that series in addition to continuing the Beautiful Little Monster series. 

Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, Beautiful Little Monster #11


Special thanks to Ibrahim for taking the time to catch up with us! His current exhibition ‘A Family Affair’ is on view at the Brockton Public Library through August 30th. Make sure to check it out!

To keep up with Ali-Salaam, find him at his website https://ibi5000.wixsite.com/ibrahim or on Instagram @ibi5000.

For more information or any inquiries, please visit beacongallery.com or contact us directly via email at contact@beacongallery.com.

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