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Leila Heller Gallery
Saida XVII: Gold Leaf, 2013
Gold leaf on wood
Signed bottom right
42 x 42 x 2.5 in.


Artist's studio

Naifeh is perhaps best known as the co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga (with Gregory White Smith). His most recent work, Van Gogh: The Life (also with Smith,) has been praised as “definitive” by the curator of Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and was named “Art Book of the Year” by The Times of London.

Spending his childhood throughout the Middle East, including Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and the U.A.E., Naifeh became enamored by the beauty of the geometric shapes and patterns that decorated everything from the textiles to the buildings of the Islamic world. Naifeh also became interested in the mathematical basis of these shapes and patterns, which were developed a millennium ago throughout the world of Islam. He has adapted those ancient formulas to modern purposes in conceiving his geometric, often large-scale works.

The Geometric Abstraction movement of the United States and Europe also resonates in Naifeh’s work. The movement, embraced by artists such as Wassily Kandinksy and Kazemir Malevich, relied on line, color, and geometric shapes. By looking to both the art of the Middle East and the West, Naifeh highlights the similarities and harmonizes two cultures that are often found at odds.

Naifeh studied art history at Princeton and Harvard Universities, focusing on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Western European and American art. At the same time his own art began to explore the kinship between the geometric abstraction of Western art and the millennium-old tradition of Arab and Islamic abstraction. Naifeh studied contemporary art with Sam Hunter, former curator of the Museum of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum, and Islamic art with Oleg Grabar and Cary Welch. It has taken 40 years for these influences to fully emerge in Naifeh’s most recent body of work.