Bassmi Ibrahim: Later Works

3 July - 31 December 2021

Using giant soft Chinese brushes Bassmi creates extraordinarily suggestive, sonorously layered liquid forms ... floats in stillness, on an undifferentiated white expanse. Taken together Bassmi's color fields are paradoxical in appearance.... Vaporous, veil like yet robust, his open-ended forms easily elicit the suggestion of after- image contours of a flower or a sea creature, or of an air-bound and fleeting entity.

 --- Dominique Nahas The Universe Makers

Born in Cairo in 1941, the late painter Bassmi Ibrahim studied art in schools there and then moved to New York City in the 1960s, where he experienced late developments in abstract expressionism firsthand (the artist moved to Florida a decade later). While in the city, he developed a painterly style that he would develop for the rest of his life: a fusion of atmospheric color and fluid form, in which light seems to emanate from behind the paintings. Awash with hue, his major series attempts to confer majesty and luminous perception onto compositions that fill the canvas in a non-linear mist. The inspired haze we encounter is lit with diaphanous color, reminding Ibrahim's audience of the freedoms of abstract expressionism, the monochromatic poise of color field painting, the formlessness of the sea and sky, the intuitive qualities of a non-psychological Rorschach text. Ibrahim eschews the definite outline in favor of atmospheric constructions that seem to hover in mid-air. They employ color as a means of balancing the compositions in their use of differing kinds of light. The paintings are created using mixed-media, but they can seem as if they were watercolors alone given the lightness of their being.


It can be said that Ibrahim worked out, during the long tenure of his career, a willed
transcendence in painting. Certainly, this links him to his affinity for the abstract expressionists; the artist always remembered a chance meeting with Mark Rothko in the West Village. For many of the artists that preceded and influenced him, the use of color was more or less sufficient in a structural fashion. Ibrahim knew this well and applied it to his own efforts. In the "Isness Series," the colors are partially transparent, creating passages in which it feels as if waves of pigment are washing over each other.

In the "Layers of Silence" series, the canvases are often, but not always, divided by
stripes of white, sometimes simply exercises in color, sometimes looking like an out-of-focus seascape, sometimes even suggesting a manmade structure like a building, seen at a distance. In all cases though, Ibrahim's point is made through untrammeled passages of tonal hues that result in an undifferentiated fog; linear treatments are foregone in an effort to create a primal experience. 


The cosmic elements that come to play in Ibrahim's creativity might be the visual equivalent of creation myths. It is as if the world has just begun in his paintings, before there was time to differentiate form in any major fashion. As a result, color becomes the substitute for form; in this artist's work, it is a device that is strong enough to maintain a structural present determined, even so, by an atmospheric one. Thus, Ibrahim's considerable strengths as a poet of being are rendered in terms that are deliberately indefinite, as we can see from the titles of his series. But that does not mean he is vague. Instead, we bring away from the experience of his art a subliminal message concerning states of awareness that circle about us in the form of tinted light, in a way that reminds us of times of the day: dawn, the middle of the afternoon, evening. It is only when we recognize that the artist is attempting a visual myth of unlimited existence that his message will become fully clear, driven as it is by the attempt to convey wonder and a sense of inspired creation.

                                                                                              --   Jonathan Goodman

Installation Views
Press release

Bassmi Ibrahim
Later Works
Cross Contemporary Partners Virtual Gallery

Opening July 3, 2021 through December 30, 2021

New York, NY:  The art of Cairo-born painter Bassmi Ibrahim is hugely appealing in its emphasis on pure color and abstract form. It also suggests a rich critical context and displays clear and compelling links with a range of important historical precedents. At a time when interest in painting as a whole is seeing yet another resurgence, Ibrahim's oeuvre seems particularly valuable, and his canvases newly desirable.

Encouraged by the creative success of a group of small ink wash drawings that he made in the mid-1960s, Ibrahim continued to paint "from the gut, using layered color and biomorphic form to represent, in canvas after canvas, "the intrinsic reality of all experience." Influenced by Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Paul Jenkins, and Helen Frankenthaler-as well as by his own studies in metaphysics and homeopathy-Ibrahim refined a seductive vision of natural forces that, once experienced, is hard to shake.

Ibrahim's paintings typically feature veils or sheets of translucent color, exploring ethereal states and atmospheres while balancing elements of formal spontaneity and control. Starting from 2004, Bassmi's canvases are distinguished by rich color poured over white grounds, and by luminescent petal shapes constructed from dilute layers of oil and acrylic. A later series, "Awareness," hints at distant landscapes, while "Layers of Silence," are meditative reflections that have a beautiful soothing stillness.

The art of Bassmi Ibrahim is revealed here as a true reflection of his own passions and of changes in the art world through which he moved. It is also shown to be a lastingly relevant meditation of space and being. Ibrahim's works have been exhibited around the world in solo exhibitions at venues including Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, FL; Leepa Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Springs, FL, Pensacola Museum of Art, Mobile Museum of Art and many others.

For further information, contact Jen Dragon, Cross Contemporary Partners, 518.758.8130