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.