Tomm El-Saieh’s solo museum debut features a suite of new paintings that explore and probe the meanings of abstraction by invoking Haitian traditions of figurative spiritual art.
El-Saieh’s colorful, map-like constellations are created through a frenetic process of all-over rubbing, a diverse application of material, and strategic erasures. The large-scale compositions are so full of information that the works themselves allude to the artist’s labored physical process, which could be seen as performative. Through this mode of facture, El-Saieh creates a subtly diverse range of surfaces that can be seen as networks, fields of data, or nodes of activity, or that can be interpreted as abrasions or micro-destructions to the paintings’ surfaces.
In the largest of these paintings, the canvas becomes a sort of screen—an effect that heightens El-Saieh’s contention that the painting is a type of information, and that abstraction relates to an ideological Western form of modernism posing as “natural.” Dedicated to providing a platform for emerging and under-recognized artists from around the world early in their careers, the Ray Ellen and Allan Yarkin Gallery features commissions of site-specific or experimental works and rotates exhibitions three times per year.
El-Saieh (b. 1984, Port-au-Prince) studied at the New World School of the Arts, Miami, and currently directs the El-Saieh Gallery in Port-au-Prince. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Michael Jon & Alan, Miami (2016); Central Fine, Miami Beach (2015); and the Haitian Heritage Center, Miami (2008).