Roya Khadjavi Projects has courageously opened a show, including online images and a physical display of work at High Line Nine Gallery 9.1, 507 West 27th Street, Chelsea, New York City, online beginning September 1; at the Gallery from September 15-29, daily except Sunday and Monday, from 10 AM-6 PM, by appointment only. Opening receptions are September 16-17, 5-8 PM, September 1`8 and 19, 4-7 PM, by appointment. Generously, Curator Roya Khadjavi Heidari will donate part of the proceeds to Artist Relief to support artists during the Covid 19 crisis.
Overall, the twenty-one artists project a feeling of missing pieces, accentuated, during this lonely time, even more than the disconnection often felt by those who have adopted another country and culture. When we cover half of our faces with masks, so we only smile with our eyes, and dare not speak or laugh, it is difficult to project identity, eventually questioning our own identities in this new and forbidding world. As these Iranian artists have succeeded in adopting an identity in the U.S., that very identity is threatened, but unlike other artists, they know how to create art that lets the viewing public know how difficult a split or erased identity is
Parastoo Ahovan’s” Holiness of the Margins”, (acrylic on canvas, 2019) uses varied materials and media; painting, sculpture, mixed media, video and performance to create work highlighting ancient Iranian patterns. Faces are veiled but the person underneath is identified with a golden crown, earrings and necklace alluding to class identification but no individual identity. Asfane Barati’s” Self-Portrait”, (digital photo collage, 2017), where she is turned away from the viewer to reflect her features in a sectioned mirror, duplicating eyes, and minimizing the mouth, makes clear that she sees more than she can speak or can be heard.
Similarly, Pejman Hosseini’s digital photograph (Self-Portrait, 2020) draws a tightly bound translucent fabric over a body, confusing individual identity. Aida Izadpanah, who has been featured in Roya Khadjavi Projects’ previous shows, continues her sculptural practice combining porcelain with gold forms, but here painted porcelain bands bisect her “Self Portrait in Profile” (handmade, fired, painted porcelain and 24 kt. Gold on painted wooden board). These chainlike bands atop porcelain incised with Islamic patterns unites old and new, in a bound self-portrait. Shahram Karimi’s “Me and beer” (mixed media on canvas, 2008) cuts off the child-like form at the edge of the canvas, while the adult form points to the sleeping child whose slumber might result from the glass of beer suckled from the prominent breast still attached to the baby. We are reminded that we can induce sleep and indifference, here with a beer, but also of the innocence of the babe as it slumbers without a care.
Maryam Khosrovani’s Self-Portrait I, (Color pencil on paper, 2020) completely layers color over the mouth while gradually showing opening eyes in her four successive self-portraits in her series. The linearity and separate spaces of RISD graduate Farsad Labbouf stress his stated reverence for Unity and Monism, while portraying himself in “Self-Portrait-1” (oil on canvas, 2020). His “Self-Portrait II” (oil on paper, 2020) is even more interesting, with the face in devilish red, backgrounded in black with white outlined masks above his head. It seems to ask if this virus the dance of the devil.
Sara Mandandar’s “Self-Portrait” (acrylic on canvas, 2012) layers a while rectangle over the face hiding her Iranian features, while a screw aims a subtle joke at her head. Dana Nehdaran’s self-portrait, (oil on gesso primed paper, 2020) traditional by this show’s standards, is an exemplary painting that stares directly at the viewer, though the face is slightly turned and the background unfinished, as he is still discovering how much of his still unformed identity he can reveal. In contradistinction, Dana Nehdaran’s “My sister, Niloo”oil on canvas, 2020) is a finished black and white painting, as she is not him. Dariush Nehdaran’s “Live” (2015) from his Unconscious Series is the most joyful image here. In the black and white photograph, a dancer appears in silhouette. Dariush, who suffered poor eyesight as a child, discovering a clearer view through the camera’s lens, here shows a clear image above a blurry, grey floor, as his dancer literally emerges from the shadows of his limited vision.
Sepideh Salehi weaves together personal narrative and story-telling, recalled truth and myth to combine heritage and a new culture in “Self-Portrait”, (Mixed media on paper, 2008) while Negin Sharifzadeh, a cross-disciplinary artist and storyteller merges sculpture, stop-motion animation, interactive design, short films and photography to produce work like her mounted museum print, “Modern Girls, Ancient Rite” (2019) where a blond, winged angel in pure white Victorian dress seemingly reads her palm while seated, presumably Negin in traditional, but plain Iranian dress looks back at her. Her mounted museum print, “Growing Brighter Futures” diptych (2019) again features a seemingly saintly woman under a Botticelli-like upside-down shell backgrounding modern, alternately dressed and nude Iranian women; one a pedestal beneath which a bride extends her hands, perhaps looking toward her future. This surrealist photographer wins my vote for best storyteller in the show.
The Northeastern University trained Safarani sisters, Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani’s “Self-Portrait” (oil on canvas and video projection, 2020) shows a mirror, incorporating their twin images, building on their practice of painting their status as identical twins as one is depicted while the other takes the photograph that serves as the basis for the painting. In “White Curtain”, their video painting (oil on canvas and video projection, 2020) they literally raise the curtain on their identities. There are more, all investigations of identity, all excellent. Curator Roya Khadjavi wrote to me, “I loved working on this show. Almost none of the works were seen in person. The artists were all alone working in their studios and the topic that most of them brought up was self-reflection.” There was little alternative as the community of artists and models was not available during the isolation of Covid, but these artists, in reflecting on their individual identities and situations, have produced some remarkable work. In visiting, and buying this work, Artists’ Relief, helping artists through the financial, medical and other difficulties during the Covid crisis will benefit, as we all will.