N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
Artist in Residence

Najjar Abdul-Musawwir
Artist Bio
Najjar Abdul-Musawwir was born October 25th, 1958, in Chicago, Illinois. He is an Associate Professor of Fine Art at Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Art and Design, Carbondale, Illinois. He teaches "Exploration of Mixed-Media," "Abstract Painting," "Experimental Drawing," "Graduate Professional Development," and "African- American Art History." He serves on several academic committees, such as African Studies, and Global Studies. His works illustrate culture, faith, and history through abstract language. He uses different materials as a metaphor for the human experience; and thus, he abstracts material to discuss our abstract existence. Najjar is known for using burlap sacks in his paintings. A profound and puissant symbol, the idea of burlap sacks exploiting the surface, which speaks to the power of harvesting the spiritual experiences of the human-will – past, present, and beyond the 21st century.

Najjar received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1997. Though his greatest academic influence came from painters Robert Paulson, Michael Onken and printmaker Joel Feldman, he was force to look outside this academic institution for cultural and spiritual understanding of content for his works. His first successful series was during his undergraduate studies, the “FREE – DOM” Series. This body of mixed-media works was portraits of African-American men heads. “Free” represented the intellect, and “Dom” represented the round-top of the human structure, the head. Other series included: Garment Series, African Stool Series, Breast Cancer Series, Fatiha and Door of Return, and his new series of paintings titled, Detroit: Best Kept Secret Series. In addition, charcoal as a “wet/dry medium” is the topic of his book in progress. Najjar has conducted several workshops on his experimental drawing processes of charcoal as a wet/dry medium.

Najjar is on the Board of Directors for the African American of Southern Illinois. He has received the distinguish and prestigious acknowledgments: Rickert Ziebold Trust Award in 1992, Illinois Consortium Educational Opportunity Program Fellowship in 1995; invited by the MacAuthur Foundation as a member of Illinois artists' consulting team in 1995, the Judge William Holmes Cook Professorship Endowment, 2009, and selected artist for the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Arts' Artist-n-Residency, 2009 (formerly G. R. N'Namdi Gallery in Detroit, MI).

Najjar has amongst his solo/group exhibitions: Salon 53 Gallery, St. Louis, MO; 2010; G. R. N'Namdi Gallery, Chicago, IL, 2010; G. R. N'Namdi Gallery, Detroit, MI, 2009; Yeiser Art Center, Paducah, Kentucky, 2001 & 2007; Mitchell Museum, Mt. Vernon, Illinois, 2005; Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago, Illinois, 2003; Illinois Museum of Science and Industry's Black Creativity, Chicago, Illinois, 1995 & 2003; Highwire Gallery, Philadelphia, PA,1999; Hope School of Fine Arts Gallery/Bloomington, Indiana, 1995; and international shows included: Cape Coast Cultural Art Center, Ghana, Africa, lecture,1999; Bilkent University Fine Art Gallery, Ankara, Turkey, lecture, 2008; Toyoura Historian Museum, Niigata, Japan, 1994; and forthcoming solo show/lecture at Tuanku Fauziah Museum & Gallery, Science University of Malaysia in the island of Penang, Malaysia.

Najjar most recent commission by the Variety Center for the Arts was the "Balcony," which is a narrative painting about the world-renown entertainer/social activist Dick Gregory. WSIU In Focus created a documentary on how Najjar met with Gregory and developed the creative process. He has been featured on Chicago's WTTW Channel 11, Artist Across Illinois series. He has written essays for books, online magazines, and exhibition catalogues. He has and continues to be a mentor to owner and co-founder of Black Art In America, Najee Dorsey. Najjar has been spoken highly of by professional member of the art community: Michael J. Beam, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, stated, “Abdul-Musawwir's prolific career as a visual communicator . . . is a reflection of his faith, knowledge, and life experience. His personal commitment to engaging and challenging the contemporary art world is his extraordinary journey that is still to be written.” Dr. Terrell Carter, former Director of the Gallery of Contemporary Art, St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, stated, “Within the art community in St. Louis, MO, there has been a subdued buzz of anticipation surrounding Najjar and his work for the past two years. He has spoken at the Saint Louis Art Museum . . . this led to questions and requests to see his work in an exhibition in St. Louis . . . . Due to the craftsmanship and care that he employs, as well as the physical versatility of his pieces . . . .” Jumaane N'Namdi, Director of the G. R. N'Namdi Gallery in Chicago, stated, “Part of it is Najjar's spirit . . . . It comes through in his work in a way that I cannot compare to any other artist. And at the same time, the issues of faith and culture are ones any human [being] can relate to.”

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