Yossi Milo Gallery Announces Representation of Ibrahim Said

Yossi Milo Gallery is pleased to announce representation of Ibrahim Said. The gallery will present a solo exhibition of the artist’s work in 2022, after a preliminary showing at the Fall 2021 Armory Show.

Ibrahim Said creates ceramic vessels that take on gravity-defying shapes, with top-heavy bodies supported by sinuous legs and tentacles coiled into mobius strips. Cascading down their sides are intricate geometric patterns, which mimic the interlacing designs of Islamic art and architecture. Each piece is made complete with a fine glaze, often in a burnished black that recalls the black-topped pottery of the ancient Egyptian Naqada period (4000 – 3000 BCE).

Such historic references are hardly a coincidence: at the core of the Egyptian-American artist’s practice is a deep love and knowledge of his home country’s ceramic traditions. Said seeks to revere his heritage while advancing quintessentially Egyptian motifs and forms towards new horizons. For instance, the geometric carvings that cover Said’s vessels gesture towards jug filters from Egypt’s Fatimid Dynastic era (900 CE). Painstakingly carved into interlaced shapes, animals, and flowers, these filters separate river sediment and particles out of the water, which then flows newly filtrated into the container. From the outside, the jugs appear to be completely unadorned and plain, as the filters reside inside the jugs’ necks. Only the drinker can peer into its neck and see the carved patterns.

Said sees these vessels’ beauty as internalized, both literally and figuratively, and inverts the very concept of the jug filter by carving the external bodies of his vessels. Viewers are thus encouraged to look beyond the purely decorative or “surface” elements of the vessel to the hollow space that resides within. In doing so, Said gives new meaning to concepts of function in relation to overall form and beauty: “When I pierce the body of my vases,” Said states, “I render them lost to function and yet the body itself then becomes the filter for another connection to life and transformation.” Aesthetics and functionality, so often at odds with one another in the genre of traditional art, find a more harmonious cohabitation in Said’s work.

Said’s enthusiasm for Egyptian art and history stems in large part from his childhood in the Fustat area of Cairo, Egypt, a major production center for pottery since the 9th century. Growing up surrounded by massive kilns and mixing pits, Said also found inspiration in his father, himself a lifelong ceramic artisan and respected artist. At the age of 6, Said began following his father into the studio, where he played with scraps of discarded clay as his father worked. “Play turned into drawing on clay, then drawing became carving and cutting … and every step of the way,” Said says, “my father nurtured my love of clay, taught me everything he had learned from over 60 years of working with it, and supported me in everything I ever wanted to do. Clay became my future, primarily because of my father.” The artist’s surname, Said, is an alias, taken from his father’s name. In this way, it is impossible to reference “Ibrahim Said” without also citing his father’s legacy, their shared love of pottery, and the many generations of Egyptian craftsmanship that fuel their work.

Ibrahim Said has previously exhibited in solo and group shows at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY; 10th Korean International Ceramic Biennale, Icheon, South Korea; Saatchi Gallery, London, UK; Museum of Art and Design, New York, NY; Cary Arts Center, Cary, NC; among others. Said’s work is part of public and private collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland; Center of Islamic Art, Kuwait; Fustat Ceramics Center, Cairo, Egypt. Said currently lives and works between North Carolina and Cairo, Egypt.