A psychedelic painting depicting a tangle of female-looking figures. The central figure has pink skin, and is being carried by the others in a position referencing Michaelangelo’s Pietà. The other figures have mossy green skin, and one is putting a finger in the pink figure's mouth. ​Feather-shaped embellishments mimicking the wings of a peacock are layered over the figures. They're surrounded by brightly-colored, striped snakes.

Wendell Gladstone: Safe Haven

Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present ​Safe Haven​, a series of new paintings by Los Angeles-based Wendell Gladstone. This will be the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.

The new paintings in ​Safe Haven ​continue the artist’s interest in surreal and psychologically charged spaces, often populated with a cast of humans, animals, and hybrid forms. Expanding upon the idea of a ‘haven’, or a place of refuge, this exhibition conjures the varying degrees in which tenderness and precariousness overlap. Binaries blur between intermingled bodies—what is understood as interior and exterior, bound and liberated, giving and receiving, fluidly shift within a single work. This series examines an unfolding relationship between human connection, power, and safety through notions of gazing and physical contact.

Transparent layers of paint function as windows, bringing the physical materiality of the paint and the idea of painting-as-window to the surface, allowing the viewer to literally see through one layer and into the next. Portals of implied stained-glass invoke religious connotations, adding to the celestial and other-worldly nature of the paintings, while deftly manipulated flat blocks of color provide a low relief-like dimensionality. At times mimicking mosaic, terrazzo, or concrete, the artist’s skillful sculptural painting technique can just as easily render ghost-like forms and subtle textures only made visible by certain angles of light. This process allows two different scenes to exist simultaneously on a single plane, effortlessly alternating between opposing weights and mass to create an uneasiness––as if the image could slide right off the canvas.

In paintings such as D​ouble Dutch​ and S​upport System​, the figures’ long malleable limbs are tied together arduously, propped up as much as they are weighed down. Each inhabitant’s struggle becomes an integral part to completing the cyclical nature of the artwork; as if a single quiver of the muscles could cause a compositional collapse. The hierarchal struggle amongst the cast of characters often rests on the tips of toes and fingers, evoking a taught embrace that could slip away at any moment. Repeated limbs and faces are frozen in a frenzy of motion—like a Grecian frieze. The heaviness of each figure seems to defy the impending force of gravity as they levitate on groundless hues of pale green, blue and yellow.

In contrast, paintings such as Perch ​and The Lookout are spaces that at first glance seem naturalistic. Figures climbing trees in the foreground peer at unwitting couples in the background; lions on the periphery study the subject in the center. These paintings have a defined sense of space and the narrative between characters focuses on gaze rather than touch. The psychological tension derives in part from their ambiguous relationship to one another. It is unclear whether characters pursue, stalk, or flirt; or if they are seeking safety from the dangers of the outside world, as refuge and peril oscillate endlessly. Figures stare longingly at each other while crabs, snakes, and cats hide in the perimeters throughout the exhibition, reminding the viewer to scan their own environment of potential threats.

In S​afe Haven, animals can simultaneously give respite, as seen in the groups of figures which occupy their zoomorphic forms in cramped, cocoon-like ways. Bulls, horses, and peacocks provide an armature for the figures inside, imitating the psyche of its inhabitants. A stretched, elongated figure referencing Michaelangelo’s P​ietà ​is resuscitated by its surrounding care givers, who breathe life into the central figure—mimicking the expanding wings of a peacock. In T​ip of the Hat With the Wind at My Back​, a dancing couple is enveloped by the shape of a raging bull, the dip of one partner echoing the kicking motion of the animal. Patterned clothing and bow-tied shoes referencing the regalia of t​oreros​, or bullfighters from Spain, adorn the violent twirl between the two.

Following a decade of work, SafeHaven expands the artist’s interest in figurative painting that evokes the space between logic and dreams. Utilizing a large swath of references that span eras and cultures, these paintings call forth historical allegories to touch on contemporary subjects of isolation, power, connection, and instability. Giving license to his subconscious to guide the narratives and structure, the paintings allow for Jungian archetypes and parables of the past to mix with the artist’s personal experience and the zeitgeists of today—culminating in a body of work which shifts mythologically into the present and champions the potential for lucidity to provide a sense of clarity in unsettling times.

 

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.

An installation photograph of an artwork by Fay Ray, which consists of a large, light brown, oval rock tethered to the wall with a heavy metal chain, and bound by a hammered metal cage.

Hold on Tight

Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present Hold on Tight, an exhibition of works by Annie Lapin, Mark McKnight, Naudline Pierre, Fay Ray, Michael Stamm, Cammie Staros, Summer Wheat and Wendy White.

Our current moment is filled with uncertainty. Much of our daily life is now encompassed by a sense of precariousness and anxiety, yet we find solace in the small pleasures of quotidian moments. The artworks in this exhibition navigate the complex relationships between these emotions: the desire for touch and connection through isolation and our longing for the people and places that have recently been out of reach. Together, these works highlight the existential task of finding hope through seclusion, vulnerability, and possibility.

In this exhibition, Fay Ray continues her exploration of female identity, body adornments, and fetishized objects. The artist compiles visually embellished sculptures that often resemble over-sized charms and pendants, subverting their functionality and shrinking the sense of the viewer’s body by the scale and weight of the materials used. In a new sculpture titled Guardian, the work bears semblance to pendants found at desert flea markets; crystals or small stones wrapped in wire and in the form of a peace sign. Simultaneously, they are pulled into the realm of capable and meaningful violence. Guardian is bound; both by the chains to the wall, and by the bondage of its own ceasefire symbolism. Situated by the gallery’s glass facade, the pendants embody their true functionality as one of possible destruction. The rock becomes still, unmoving, but not empty of its potential to break through.

The emotional state of longing and desire permeates Mark McKnight’s silver gelatin prints, which often portray the bodies of queer friends and lovers. McKnight carefully depicts the effects of entropy on the human form and draws an analogous connection with scars found on architecture, urban spaces, and the landscape. The results are formal images that are equally tender and brutal. The photograph Bodyfold, depicts a man’s body tightly cropped and partially obscured. The body subtly contorts to appear as if part of a larger landscape. In the upper left corner is a faint crack in the pavement, evoking the vulnerability of the body itself. McKnight’s photographs elicit a desire for intimate touch across a jagged ravine—implying an erotic, yet merciless, psychological space.

Looking specifically to the shapely vessels of Classical Greece, Cammie Staros’ hand-built objects marry ancient ceramic techniques with contemporary forms. Using references to desire, eroticism, and violence within artifacts from Western Art History, the works allow for a reexamination of the role of historical objects. As seen in Coaxed Into and Out of It, carved wood takes on the form of two arms, modeled after the artist’s own body. Reaching out from the walls in a gesture to make physical connection, one arm subtly shifts into the form of a snake. Just below, is an elongated ceramic vessel with the form and surface pattern that visually references the arm above. Snakes, a symbol of birth and healing, as well as a possible hazard, are combined with a domestic vessel, providing a cautionary message that links the intimacy of home with the dangers of the outside world.

Annie Lapin’s paintings reside in a fracturing world, one that seems to push forward and backwards out of the frame simultaneously. Within her works, digital histories and analog mark making come together to form trompe l’oeil scenes that abide neither to the rules of the virtual nor to the physical. In her recent painting Event, made during the COVID-19 quarantine, Lapin merges references to the body as a form of rupture in her pictorial planes. This painting makes use of flash photography as a light source to eerily illuminate a curb, foliage, and sky—as if walking in a neighborhood that looks familiar, but somehow isn’t. Floating on the surface of the painting is an ominous single red rose and two outstretched hands, alluding to the desire for access to the outside world.

Michael Stamm’s paintings and drawings critically consider the popular tenets of our time, reconciling hope and skepticism, in an era that straddles both. In Nihilism, a television screen occupies most of the painting, evoking a secluded space filled with pressing static and deafening quiet. Visible noise, also known as TV snow, acts as a mediator between the domestic space and the outside winterscape. The electronic frame becomes a psychological space for longing, a calling for a place out of time, or an escape from the confinement one is currently in. In Causes, cramped text that reads “causes cause causes to cause causes” overlays an image of an antacid being stirred into a glass of water. The repetition of the text suggests a distressed mantra, while the ‘remedy’ in the painting functions as a real neutralizer for symptoms related to anxiety. Like the spinning of the spoon, one can imagine the phrase circling around in the mind.

Many of the paintings and sculptures by Wendy White serve as cultural critique that offers a glimmer of hope. Employing language and aesthetics often related to male-dominated areas, from Abstract Expressionism to the machismo of cigarette ads, the artist asks us to reconsider American myths and symbols of the sublime. In Uncontained (Orange with Cloud and Rainbow), a continuation of earlier work using gestural mark-making, depicts a mostly dark, abstract field drained of color. The rainbow, a cultural symbol of optimism, becomes black, cold, and industrial. Holding these dichotomies of fulfillment and emptiness in the same space is also apparent in Pleasure! (with drip). These coded works point to a troubled cultural past that continues to inform our present, allowing us to get a glimpse of a more hopeful future.

Caught between the beautiful and the haunting, Naudline Pierre’s paintings depict intimate, otherworldly scenes in which her central protagonist, a twin for the artist, resides in an unstable, hypnotic and alternative world. Many of Pierre’s works serve as portals; they summon a bottomless, swaying space where figures appear and disappear. Finding this subject in moments of embrace, she gains protection and healing with the touch of adjacent beings—these figures attempt to ground the protagonist. In the painting Eye See, gravity is unclear, as several figures seem to hover; an intimate touch to the forehead of the main subject renders her motionless, while still fully aware of her surroundings.

This sense of limbo can also be found in Summer Wheat’s textural art objects, which destabilize material boundaries and elevate quotidian life. In Midnight Snack, Wheat references Gustave Courbet’s epochal Stonebreakers (1848), a controversial painting that depicts laborers participating in back breaking work, paying no attention to the viewer. Similar in composition and anonymity, Midnight Snack replaces the stonebreakers with unknown female figures, memorializing the fleeting moment of the domestic work-break. In this dreamy hour, one would find themselves gathering midnight snacks, residing in a liminal space between day and night, wake and sleep. The figures in the work are also walking on branches, precariously balancing themselves in an unstable space. In Wheat’s works on paper, Angel Hair, Pills, and Oranges, the artist takes banal slices of the everyday with a moment of anxious pause. These seemingly quotidian scenes are rendered with a sense of quiet pleasure, focusing on the familiar in a time of uncertainty.