Ibrahim Ahmed: It Will Always Come Back to You

The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, United States
23 Jul 2021 - 07 Nov 2021

Ibrahim Ahmed, Does Anybody Leave Heaven? (detail), 2019, Presentation at the ICA © Ibrahim Ahmed

Ibrahim Ahmed, Does Anybody Leave Heaven? (detail), 2019, Presentation at the ICA © Ibrahim Ahmed

The first solo museum exhibition of Cairo-based artist Ibrahim Ahmed, It Will Always Come Back to You presents a thematic selection of his work from 2013 to 2020 in a variety of media, including primarily textile-based sculpture, painting, and photo collage. The exhibition also features a new large sculpture commissioned by the ICA.

Ahmed’s manipulations of material, especially textile, are informed by research into the histories and movements of peoples and objects. His works in mixed media, sculpture, and installation engage with subjects related to colonization, structures of power, cultural interactions, and fluid identity, generating discussion around ideas of the self and notions of authenticity within the parameters of the nation-state.

The two most expansive works in the exhibition may be seen as a pair. Only Dreamers Leave (2016) and Does Any-body Leave Heaven (2019) are made of found textiles sewn together and supported by built structures. Thematically, together, they relate to the myths surrounding migration to the global north and representations of the nation-state. The thirty sails that comprise Only Dreamers Leave stand for the countries—the twenty-eight European Union mem-bers plus Canada and the U.S.—that, through the fantasies they evoke, lure migrants away from their communal homes. Ahmed himself moved with his family to the U.S. at the age of thirteen. The sails are fabricated from heavy, porous textiles associated with manual and domestic labor. Embroidered on the fabrics are gold patterns that refer to baroque and arabesque iron gates, symbols of wealth and status in Egypt.

Ahmed has shown his work in solo exhibitions at Primary, Nottingham (2019); Sara Zanin Gallery, Rome (2018); Gallery Nosco, Marseille (2018); Volta Art Fair, New York (2016); Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2016); artellewa art space, Giza (2014) and Solo(s) Project House, Newark (2010). His work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions, including at the Sharjah Art Museum, 13th edition of the Biennial of Dakar – Dak’art, 13th Havana Biennial, 4th International Biennial of Casablanca, 12th edition of the Bamako Encounters – African Biennale of Photography.

Ibrahim Ahmed: It Will Always Come Back to You is curated by ICA Executive Director Dominic Willsdon.



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