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Father and son are focus of exhibit at Brockton Library

Paintings by Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, including "Beautiful Little Monster #5" will be on display at Brockton Public Library beginning on Wednesday, Aug. 4.Christine 0'Donnell of Beacon Gallery

The Brockton Public Library will host an exhibition of work by Boston artist Ibrahim Ali-Salaam centered on his series of paintings called “Beautiful Little Monster.”

Described as an ongoing collaboration with the artist’s 9-year-old son, Joaquin, the works represent his son’s growth, the painter’s evolution as a father, and “the remaking of their family unit” after a divorce, according to Christine O’Donnell, who represents the artist for Beacon Gallery.

Titled “A Family Affair,” the show will open on Wednesday, Aug. 4, at the main Brockton Library, 304 Main St., and run through Aug. 30. A reception will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 11 at the library’s Joseph A. Driscoll Gallery.


Every few months, Ali-Salaam and Joaquin collaborate on a piece that represents both “a bonding experience” and the passage of time, according to Beacon.

“I’ve been drawing my son since he was first born,” Ali-Salaam said in an interview, recalling his days as an excited new father. “I was just drawing him all the time. Those images became a habit.”

His son picked up the habit of drawing at a very early age as well. “When he started drawing,” the artist said, “before he could draw images he was drawing shapes.” One of these shapes was a simple circle “with really interesting eyes.”

Artist Ibrahim Ali-Salaam and his son, Joaquin, collaborated on work that will be on display at Brockton Public Library beginning on Wednesday, Aug. 4. Christine 0'Donnell of Beacon Gallery

And then, Ali-Salaam said, as his son got a little older, a characteristic design emerged: “A circle with eyes and mouth lines and hands and feet sticking out from the sides.”

The painter-father was so charmed by this image he got it tattooed on himself. “I went gangbusters with that,” Ali-Salaam said.

Now, at intervals, the father and son collaborate on paintings. Ali-Salaam makes a painting with a dominant image and background, and then Joaquin paints on it.

His son “knows composition,” having learned through their collaboration, Ali-Salaam said. His son’s contributions leave the central figure alone and finds other spaces for adding his own imagery. In recent collaborations, the painter said, Joaquin, now older, begins with his familiar circle image, then “he goes nuts with monsters. He goes wild …”


In the most recent half-dozen collaborations, Ali-Salaam said, his son’s painting shows “an intentional idea.”

Father and son like graffiti artists. A favorite of the moment is Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose work was recently on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

O’Donnell said Ali-Salaam’s own work centers on “the linked concepts of one’s sense of self and family and how we love deeply and make sacrifices for those we care about.”

Ibrahim Ali-Salaam was born and raised in Mattapan. He graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2001 and works as a full-time artist while also running his own art installation company, Nova Art Handling.

“My inspiration comes mainly from the world I see around me, and what I see in the mirror,” Ali-Salaam says in his artist statement. “My art tends to focus on the human form.”

In the series of paintings to be shown in the upcoming exhibition in Brockton, O’Donnell said, Ali-Salaam “seeks to capture, in his own way, some of the trials and tribulations of parenthood through a contradictory lens of emotion, offering both the joy and challenges of parenthood, family, and caretaking wrapped up together.”

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com.