The Stamp (Moujaz)

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The Stamp (Moujaz)

Hand carved wood with embossed rubber face
Overall (Diameter) (a) Face): 7 1/2 × 36 in. (19.05 × 91.44 cm) Overall (Diameter) (b) Handle): 40 × 12 1/2 in. (101.6 × 31.75 cm)
Gift of Private Collection, Switzerland (M.2017.16a-b)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

The tiny rubber letters that form the ground or surface of Gharem’s iconic "stamp paintings," are an example of stamps as a recurring theme in his work. Here, he has rendered a supersized rubber stamp with a carved wood handle, comparable in scale and spirit to Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures of everyday items Gharem’s stamp features the word moujaz ("permitted") in the center surrounded by the phrase "In accordance with sharia law" in English and Arabic. Moujaz references the religious restrictions placed on Saudi banks, which must align with the principles of Islamic law and may not pay or receive interest. The stamp seems here, hyperbolically, to certify adherence to this rule.

Gharem conceived of the giant stamp and related impressions for his first group exhibition in London in 2008, in which his work Siraat (see M.2011.4) was to appear but had to be withdrawn due to a misinterpretation of its meaning (it was initially erroneously believed to disparage Quranic text). Gharem had two weeks to come up with a replacement. His family’s furniture factory provided the craftsmanship for the wood support for the stamp, initially less ornate than this later version. Along with the related prints, they comment on the mechanisms of bureaucracy endemic in daily life in Saudi Arabia, but their messages, especially in the context of their first exhibition, perhaps pertain to freedom of expression.