DER SPIEGEL: "DER STAR DER STUNDE"
By Ulrike KnÃ¶fel 30th March 2009
Der Spiegel (GERMAN)
FAR FROM BAGHDAD ALSOUDANI CAPTURES CHAOS AND CONFUSION
By Bob Kelley
Ahmed Alsoudani may very well be a star in the making. But don't try to convince the young Iraqi artist of that.
Alsoudani, who lives in Portland, graduated last year as a painting major from Maine College of Art. This summer, he attends the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture a significant honor reserved for the most promising artists in the country and this fall he enrolls as an art-school graduate at Yale.
Rather than celebrate his success as a sign of his greatness, Alsoudani prefers viewing his life as a series of fortunate occurrences. A native of Baghdad, Alsoudani fled the country after the first Gulf War, going first to Syria and later coming to Washington, D.C., for political asylum.
He spoke no English and knew only a handful of people. He had no solid plan, except to build a life in America. One of his acquaintances from Iraq happened to live in Maine, so Alsoudani came to Maine.
As he learned the language and customs on his new surroundings, Alsoudani also began flexing his artistic muscle. A painter, he makes abstract images that conjure his thoughts and feelings about the war.
Two of his recent drawings related to that subject are on display through July 1 at Filament Gallery, 181 Congress St., Portland. Influenced by the work of Arshile Gorky, Alsoudani creates wild, disjointed images that suggest chaos and confusion.
On June 9, he becomes a U.S. citizen during a ceremony in Bangor.
Alsoudani talked about his life and work last week at Filament.
Q.: I know a lot of artists do not like talking about their own work. But your paintings beg the question: Where do they come from?
A.: Most of my work deals with the war. 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.
RAYMOND PETTIBON AND AHMED ALSOUDANI
By Bob Kelley
Art after 9/11 has not always gone in for drama or even violence. Like politics itself, artists often pushed images of war to the side. Nearly five years into war, though, violence in political art is coming back.
One may not associate Raymond Pettibon right away with politics rather than impulse, celebrity, and a style somewhere between graphic novels and graffiti. As a Yale graduate, no doubt, Ahmed Alsoudani is steeped in Modernism, and one knows where that led. Where, then, does political art begin and end? Even beyond subject matter, as it turns out, a little violence does painting some good. This article continues the story of a still more explosive show, "Love/War/Sex" at Exit Art.
Has political art, especially antiwar art, ever shown so little violence? Even today, one can hardly look at Goya's dark works or Manet's executioners without flinching. Guernica stills define the disasters of war for modern eyes. Yet, strangely enough, while art after 9/11 has flourished, as often as not it has shielded its eyes. And it is not hard to imagine why. In a sense, art is all about indirection, and recently that fact, too, has political overtones.
The administration did its best to keep Iraq off the home screen, and artists have bravely responded to just that. Perhaps their first and best contribution was to embody an alternative to fear. Art could look toward Ground Zero with hope. It could point to silences, in censorship and in the headlines. With Jenny Holzer, the price of war lies forever hidden behind the censor's ink. With Hans Haacke, it hides behind the American flag.
With Amy Wilson, torture appears like a riddle. With Fernando Botero, it appears like a pose within a stage play or a sexual ritual. Images like the hooded figure from Abu Ghraib remain in memory not from their explicit nature so much as from their muteness. The executioner's face is always well hidden.