March 14, 2015
Contemporary Art Platform is proud to present Sami Mohammad: A Retrospective, the first in-depth survey of over fifty years of work by the pioneering Kuwaiti sculptor. More than 120 pieces––many of which have never been exhibited before––including sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and documents from the artist’s archive make up the largest ever presentation of his work. Mohammad’s first and only solo sculptural exhibition was mounted in Kuwait in 1995. 20 years later, this retrospective, held in the country of the artist’s birth, pays homage to his long and influential artistic journey.
Born in 1943 in Sharq, one of the oldest quarters of Kuwait City, Sami Mohammad studied at The College of Fine Arts in Cairo from 1966 to 1970 and trained as a sculptor from 1973 to 1975 at the Johnson Atelier in New Jersey, USA. He was a founding member of both the Free Atelier in 1960 and of the Kuwait Society for Formative Arts in 1967.
This chronological exhibition highlights the entire thematic arch by the foremost sculptor in the Gulf. The sculptures on view come primarily from Mohammad’s own collection, consisting of his favorite pieces. This includes many works exhibited for the first time, beginning with his earliest ceramic pieces made in 1961 and sculptures made during his studies in Egypt. At this time, his focus was almost exclusively on the female body, such as The Water Carrier (1966), and the key piece The Hunger (1970), a phenomenal example of the prominence of the human condition in his work.
Mohammad’s major wooden sculptures, including the triptych Before Birth, Birth and After Birth, (1977) from the collections of the Kuwait National Council and the Museum of Modern Art in Kuwait, as well as the widely acclaimed artworks Penetration, An Attempt to Get Out and Sabra and Shatila made during his most prolific period in the 1980s, are also on view. These stunning sculptural pieces intimately contemplate the human form and embody the physical, emotional and psychological impact of conflict. Bodies break down walls. Faces are bound, hollow, and disturbed. The succinct brutality of form reaches far into the depths of human suffering.
While the figures here are robust and meticulously sculpted, the later One Captive and Two Martyrs marks a shift, where bodies are reduced to fragile shreds. His latest series Stop confronts the barrage of suicide car bombs that became common terrorist events in the Arab world after 2000. The human body resonates throughout Mohammed’s entire oeuvre as the most substantial means for the representation of hardship and perseverance. His work reflects his belief that the human being always maintains the power to overcome oppression. If one strives for freedom, it is possible to be free.
Sami Mohammed has represented Kuwait internationally from the 1960s onwards, with exhibitions in Damascus, Cairo, Rabat, Riyadh, Tokyo, New Delhi, Athens, Cannes, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid and Frankfurt. In 1984 he was awarded the first prize at the first International Cairo Biennale. In 2010, he received the Arab Thought Foundation’s ‘Artistic Creativity Award’ for his exceptional mastery of the bronze medium. Most recently, he represented Kuwait in its first pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013.
Sami Mohammad (b. 1943) is a Kuwaiti artist and sculptor considered one of the pioneers of cultural and artistic movements in Kuwait and throughout the region. He’s best known for his bronze sculptures and for addressing themes related to humanity and human suffering. One of the leading founders of the Free Atelier in Kuwait, his continuous dedication to his work helped push the boundaries of society and greatly contribute to the artistic history of the Arab world.
His interest in sculpture started at a young age, when he would create forms and animals out of the mud traditionally used to build houses in Kuwait. He continued to pursue his artistic interest and in 1966 he received a grant from the Kuwaiti government to further his artistic studies in Cairo, Egypt. In Cairo he learned techniques used by great masters such as Rodin, and was significantly inspired with all the sculptures he experienced there. In 1974 he travelled to New Jersey, USA where he learned advanced techniques in sculpting, casting and molding. After graduating, he returned to Kuwait where he continued his practice methodically and meticulously.
His first notable sculptures were of the Kuwaiti Emirs Sheikh Abdallah Al Salem and Sheikh Sabah Al Salem as well as other commemorative pieces commissioned by the Kuwaiti government. He continued working and exhibiting relentlessly, always moving forward and developing not only as an artist, but also by supporting his peersand encouraging the cultural scene as a whole. In 2015, he had his first Retrospective, received the Kuwait State Appreciation Award, and had books of his life and work included the US Library of Congress.
His work was featured in the Kuwaiti Pavilion of the 55th Venice Biennale and he has exhibited internationally and throughout the Arab region. He is one of the first Kuwaiti artists to sell his work in Christie’s, has won numerous awards and his artwork forms part of various public and private collections.