May 23, 2010

He's on top of the art world

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Ahmed Alsoudani, who grew up in Baghdad, fills his paintings with vivid colors and graphic imagery depicting his feelings about war in Iraq.

Bob Keyes/Staff Writer

click image to enlarge

As with this painting, Alsoudani’s images, created on huge pieces of canvas and paper in oil, acrylic, charcoal and pastel, reflect the pain and turmoil caused by war. Viewers will see references to Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Goya.

Courtesy of the artist

Additional Photos Below

His early drawings suggested chaos and confusion. His work became increasingly violent and graphic.

"Most of my work deals with the war," he said in advance of a Portland gallery show during his undergraduate MECA days. "The war for me is a life-and-death issue. I've been dealing with it since before I've been here, and it's hard to step away from it. I'm not interested in showing blood and war. I'm working really hard to capture the moment between when the aircraft are attacking and the moment after the attack, that line between life and death."

 

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

He worked furiously and quietly in Maine, developing technique and style. He graduated from MECA in 2005, spent the summer of 2006 at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and then disappeared to New Haven, Conn., for graduate study at Yale.

When he emerged from Yale in 2008, he closely resembled the artist he has become: Confident, energetic and unafraid to tackle the horrors of war from the perspective of the oppressed. His images, executed on huge pieces of canvas and paper in oil, acrylic, charcoal and pastel, show the remains of those left on the ground when the bombing stops: suffering humanity, in piles of body parts, howling in pain and shredded of dignity, with references to Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Goya.

His paintings have the context of the real world, and evoke an urgency unique to the artist's complicated personal perspective.

The work resonated, and Alsoudani's recognition soared.

Last year was particularly good, with exhibitions in London, Dubai, New York and Berlin.

"Ahmed is having a very exciting career," said his New York dealer, Robert Goff. "From right out of the gate, there has been tons of chatter and buzz and excitement for his work. It hasn't abated. It's gotten more intense and exciting. He's moved into the interesting and fun part of the art world that is high-level."

Alsoudani lived in Berlin for a short time, but found his way home to New York last fall. In Manhattan, he is in the middle of everything that matters. He lives in Soho and has a studio in Chelsea. The Robert Goff Gallery is a two-minute walk -- convenient for collectors who want to meet the artist or who request a private studio visit.

That happens all the time these days. On one recent Saturday, the gallery called him on his cell phone to inform him that husband-and-wife collectors had stopped in and wanted to meet him.

"Tell them I will be over," Alsoudani said.

Thirty minutes later, he is shaking hands in the back of the gallery with Joel and Zoe Dictrow, who own one of his pieces. They talk for another 15 minutes. Alsoudani is gracious, patient and engaging.

He says goodbye, attends to some quick gallery business and then slides back out into the sun of a warm spring afternoon in New York.

His studio is on the upper floor of a warehouse-style building on West 21st St. Alsoudani's studio opens off a commons area that includes a kitchen and huge dining room table. He offers a visitor a slice of fruit bread.

The studio is soft and light, and there's a calmness to the space. Billie Holiday music plays on the CD player. For all the turmoil that Alsoudani portrays in his work, he plants himself in a peaceful, light-filled space. Eight pieces are tacked and taped up on the 14-foot walls. Five are works in progress. Three are complete.

One of the larger works likely will end up at the museum in Qatar. Alsoudani would like to keep one of the smaller ones. "But it's hard to keep one for myself. We have a lot of demand. We have a waiting list," he said.

(Continued on page 3)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Courtesy of the artist

click image to enlarge

Ahmed Alsoudani, who grew up in Baghdad, fills his paintings with vivid colors and graphic imagery depicting his feelings about war in Iraq.

Bob Keyes/Staff Writer

 


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