Viewing Room Exhibition: June 20 – July 25, 2020
Hosted by Aicon Art Viewing Room:
Aicon Art New York is proud to announce Vernacular Automatisms: Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Victor Ekpuk, a significant viewing room exhibition curated by Murtaza Vali. The exhibition marks the gallery's foray into viewing room exhibitions, an exciting space that allows us to offer thoughtful narratives and valuable context that inform and enhance our experience of interacting with art.
In an essay that accompanies the exhibition, curator Murtaza Vali notes:
‘Across both these artists' practices, vernacular signs function not only as carriers of culturally specific meaning but, through strategies of automatism - Ibrahim through endless repetition, Ekpuk through practiced improvisation - become expansive and endlessly generative formal strategies, gestures that migrate far beyond their origins, joyfully filling every surface and occupying every space they might encounter.’
Victor Ekpuk’s art builds upon the tension between art and writing, exemplified by his use of gestures that create the illusion of text. This practice bears resonance with nsibidi, an integral feature of ritual and art in the Cross-River region in southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon. Nsibidi is an open-ended linguistic system, with deletions, creations and variations across time and geographic space. It continues to be used today. Ekpuk’s varying range of works indicate his interest in assimilating a simulacrum around these universal marks and objects. In Ekpuk’s own words “The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture and identity.”
In a similar vein, Ibrahim's practice has been inspired by a lifelong relationship with the environment of Khorfakkan, his place of birth, with the Gulf of Oman on one side and the Hajar Mountains on the other. The terrain is barren and rocky, the mountains form an imposing backdrop looming over his village. Since childhood the artist has lived in this landscape and it is this experience that informs his practice, making his work in some way autobiographical. Some writers have compared the affinity to his land as that of Donald Judd and land artists. Ibrahim’s fascination with the desolate, rocky terrain on this eastern shore of the UAE recalls not only Judd's attraction to the barrenness of his Texan hideaway, but also the earthy toils of a generation of land artists, with whom Ibrahim shares a spiritual lineage.
Though they hail from distinct geographies and cultures, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Victor Ekpuk share an interest in abstraction and automatism, using these strategies to transform vernacular signs and symbols drawn from their specific contexts into coded artistic lexicons that remain personal while also communicating universally.
Murtaza Vali is a critic, curator and art historian based in Brooklyn and Sharjah. His ongoing research interests include materialist art histories, ex-centric minimalisms, ghosts and other figures of liminal subjectivities and repressed histories, and the weight of color. A recipient of a 2011 Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing, he regularly contributes to art periodicals and publications for non-profit institutions and commercial galleries. He is also an Adjunct Curator at the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, where he curated the widely acclaimed inaugural group exhibition Crude, which explored the relationship between oil and modernity across West Asia. Vali is currently curating a series of exhibitions about “intimate infrastructures” at Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi and is part of the Artistic Team for the 2nd FRONT Triennial in Cleveland in 2022. A Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, he is also a Lead Tutor of Campus Art Dubai and a Lead Mentor for the Hayy:Learning Curatorial Fellowship.