A brightly colorful and elaborate painting, with imagery separated into variously sized rectangular frames. In the center, two harlequin jesters dressed in yellow, red, blue, and green create a mirror image. A large white crane flies in front of a sun in the center of the painting. Images of clenched fists, woven tapestries, and scenes from antique children's books fill the space around the painting's edges.

Amir H. Fallah: Remember My Child…

Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present a series of new large-scale paintings by Amir H. Fallah. Titled, Remember My Child…, this will be the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.

Over the past decade, Fallah’s work has probed the history of portraiture. Marking a significant shift in the artist’s practice, this new series defies traditional notions of this prominent genre of painting by removing the figure altogether. This absence of the subject’s likeness is now substituted with a wider representation of their personhood—one that spans time and cultures and is articulated through a network of symbols and imagery. Fallah’s paintings question not only the historical role of portraiture, but the cultural systems that are used to identify one person from another.

Decisively autobiographical, these new paintings employ a lexicon of symbols that mark key moments in the artist’s relationship with his young son, which in turn conjure significant moments in the artist’s own life. His childhood memories of Iran, his adolescence in the United States, and his formative years as an adult in Los Angeles all serve as potential coming-of-age lessons that Fallah weaves together with children’s book illustrations that belong to his son, amalgamating personal narratives with historical and contemporary parables. Each painting serves as a diary of lessons, warnings, and ideals that the artist wants to pass on to his son and together become a site map, providing coded insight into the formation of an identity while investigating the cultural values passed between generations.

Fallah’s non-hierarchical, non-illusionistic picture planes are flattened, layered, and stacked, calling attention to the psychological space of borders, identities, and histories. In Science is the Antidote, Superstition is the Disease, 2020, 17th-century maps of the world illustrate egregious errors in the perimeters—and thus, in collective understandings—of continents, landmasses, and those who inhabited them. Despite the cutting-edge technology that was used to understand geography at the time, seeing these maps today point to the idea that neither history nor science is absolute. Many of the vignettes in Fallah’s paintings ask us to consider the lessons we’ve learned. Over and over, Fallah consistently demonstrates shifting paradigms within the paintings; science and history move forward and change, refining themselves over time as they get closer to truth. Following this trajectory of questioning truths often taken for granted, Science is the Antidote, Superstition is the Disease, 2020 serves as an anchor point to the show: a twenty foot long painting that uses a range of culturally specific imagery not often found together, in an attempt to mine visual symbols of the past for key insights into the present.

Within the exhibition, Fallah addresses notions of racism and how it is often neutralized through the record of history, as grave injustices are hidden as if presented in sheep’s clothing. In the painting, Remember My Child, Nowhere is Safe, 2020, a watercolor rendition depicts Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean greeting the indigenous Arawak people. What may seem as a peaceful gesture—presenting the Arawak people with a small trinket, in this case, a hawk’s bell—turns sinister, as soon after it led to their enslavement. This metaphor of deception is weaved throughout this series; much of the duplicity in the imagery is complicated as it takes on qualities of historic, scientific, and children’s book illustrations, where moments of violence are sanitized or presented as “natural.” Titles such as They Will Smile To Your Face, 2020 suggest that the ineffable subject known as “they” will do something quite different when turned away. Central to the painting’s composition, caged birds appear still and hesitant to leave. Despite an open door, they are held back only by their own volition.

In a new series of circular paintings, the artist intertwines storybook imagery, lush flora, and arabesque decorative borders throughout the perimeter of the paintings. Consistent with past works, the artist reinterprets classical floral paintings that entangle references to Dutch still lives and Persian miniatures with children book illustrations and graphic design, living together in a rotunda, or Tondo, a structure originally used in Renaissance portraiture. The flora used in the paintings don’t “naturally” occur in the same space; indigenous plants mix with ‘exotic’ ones, extinct vines grow next to contemporary hybrids, and flowers mingle together from different ecosystems. Together, they serve as a metaphor for immigrants that attempt to thrive in their new country, creating a new space that spans the limits of geography and disrupts the fallacy of borders.

Neither of this world or the next, Fallah’s works reside in the liminal space of being ‘othered’, similar to the artist’s personal experience of existing between cultures. This new chapter in the artist’s practice challenges portraiture from an entirely new point of view; one that considers the complexities of histories as they are unfolding in real time. The artist challenges history painting from a highly personal perspective by allowing multiple narratives to exist, folding geography and culture into a flattened space, and making connections where they wouldn’t normally appear. These autobiographical life maps attempt to create a new path forward: one that doesn’t abide to the linearity of histories that have been taught, but instead, contemplates the possibility of an entirely new form, leaving breadcrumbs for a new generation along the way.

An installation view of "I am not this hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within." at Shulamit Nazarian. In view are a large sculpture of a reclining yellow-skinned figure wearing a purple onesie with colorful pom poms, a black cap with white spots, yellow tinted glasses, and ruffles around the neck, wrists, and ankles. On the back right wall is a large painting with floral imagery. Two small paintings of portraits hang on the back left wall.

I am not this hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within.

Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present I am not this hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within., a group exhibition curated by Los Angeles-based artist Amir H. Fallah. Presented in the gallery’s new project space, this exhibition features works by Daniel Gibson, Todd Gray, Amanda Ross-Ho, and Francis Upritchard. It will run concurrently with Fallah’s solo exhibition Remember My Child…

Derived from a quote by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, the exhibition’s title points to the exhibiting artist’s vastly different use of imagery and materials to examine the nature of portraiture by moving beyond the physical representation of a particular subject. In dialogue with the themes of Fallah’s solo exhibition, Remember My Child…, these artists explore what it means to make biographical work through symbols, archetypes, and surrogates, in an effort to challenge the nature of representation.

Growing up in the border town of El Centro, Los-Angeles based Daniel Gibson’s paintings intermingle abstracted human figures, objects, and elements of nature to create dream-like narratives, using memories to explore themes of identity and migration. “Some of my first drawings were of the desert horizon with ocotillo plants and Mt. Signal. We used to watch people from Mexico trekking across the blazing hot desert, kids and families drinking from water jugs,” states Gibson. Shifting between the genres of portraiture, landscape, and still life, Gibson’s surrealistic scenes conjure people from his past as a way to further examine the present.

At once sculptural and photographic, the works of Los Angeles and Ghana-based Todd Gray offer complex representations of blackness, the African diaspora and the African landscape. Using the discursive qualities of archives, combined with the fragmenting qualities of assemblage, Gray finds new narratives through the act of cropping, combining, and reframing images. Juxtaposing photographs- landscape, architecture, decorative symbols-from Western European sites with similar imagery from locations in South Africa and Ghana, Gray reveals the often invisible aesthetics of colonialism. Focusing specifically on the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, Gray investigates gaze through a medium that has historically been used for the categorization of bodies and nature.

Los Angeles-based Amanda Ross-Ho isolates artifacts and phenomena observed in the everyday that offer meaningful connectivity to a larger understanding of collective experience. Through reflexive and theatrical objects and installations, she builds poetic and inquisitive environments that trace imagination within the confinement of contemporary life. Untitled Smock (ACCIDENT) is a fastidious, large-scale translation of a studio smock that marks the spill of a gallon of red paint on the artist’s working garment, creating a pseudo-violent gestural abstraction on its surface. Each detail-the splatter, the mangled label, the custom snaps-is forensically detailed and recreated, monumentalizing the intimate presence of trace and body.

London-based Francis Upritchard sculpts figures and objects out of everyday materials such as modeling clay, tinfoil, and wire. Looking towards historical artifacts, these sculptures appear museological, yet without time or place. The artist’s alternative anthropology upends traditional methods of display by imbuing institutional structures with fantastical indexes and far-flung references. Using a philosophical reclamation and reuse of historical facts, myth, thrift shopping and garbage picking, the artist rewrites a personal narrative into a larger history of human archetypes.