From the outset of known visual art, humanity has been captivated by the task of representing the body. Though this instinct has been subverted in the last century as art has moved further and further into the realm of the abstract and conceptual, many artists continue to draw on the human form for inspiration. Few contemporary artists, however, have made the figure as focal as Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, whose poignant series of male nudes will be included in Beacon Gallery’s Mixed Messages exhibition, running from July 17th to August 30th.
Raised in an academically driven family, Ali-Salaam was encouraged to continue his post-secondary education in art school. Initially unsure of what medium to pursue, he eventually came to concentrate in oil painting and charcoal; mediums that continue to define his work today. Following his graduation from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Ali-Salaam decided to challenge himself and relocated to Cincinnati.
Throughout his time living away from his hometown, he found himself resolutely drawn to depicting the body. Endlessly fascinated by its complexity and diversity, Ali-Salaam began painting nude self-portraits—first for reasons of accessibility, and later as a practice of introspection. In many of these works, Ali-Salaam’s arms reach out, bracing against invisible confines. At times forceful, at others resigned, these arms relay a keen sense of turmoil and subjugation, representing Ali-Salaam’s lived reality in a culture that tirelessly seeks to classify and categorize his identity.
In Mixed Messages, Ali-Salaam’s paintings work to complicate and counter the assumption that only women experience sexual assaults. Giving voice to narratives often shut out and forgotten, his works add a vital new dimension to the storied tradition of the male nude.
Ibrahim Ali-Salaam’s oeuvre has been exhibited in galleries across the country and around the Boston area, where he lives and works today. He’s currently adding to an ongoing series of drawings and paintings focusing on disembodied hands in addition to frequent collaborations with his young son. To keep up with Ali-Salaam’s work, you can find him at his website https://ibi5000.wixsite.com/ibrahim or on Instagram @ibi5000.
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