Lombard-Freid Projects is pleased to present Tala Madani’s second solo exhibition of paintings and videos at the gallery, ASS-AS-SIN: hashish anyone?
Iranian born and American educated Madani’s choice for an exhibition title makes perfect sense in light of her complex and darkly ironic work. The dictionary definition of the word “assassin” originally derives from Hashshashin, a militant Muslim sect active in the Middle East from the 8th to 14th centuries. This mystic secret society murdered rival members of the Abbasid and Seljuk elite for political and religious reasons while drugged with hashish and opium to commit the killings.
Madani’s gallery debut last year introduced a uniquely personal and distinctive painting style – darkly comic and filled with often-grotesque mise-en-scenes. Subversive and minimal, her portrayal of Middle Eastern male protagonists and her bold treatment of paint showcase her talent for abstraction and storytelling.
Madani’s large-scale paintings are devoid of details, rendered in graphic tri-color repetitive lines that are used both to create the characters, and define their environment in a skilful camouflage pattern or disorienting neo op effect.
In her large-scale painting, “Smiley,” Madani portrays a grouping of men in loose brushstrokes and drippy lines holding happy faces in front of their faces. These happy faced characters are covered in red and blue stripes reminiscent of the American flag. “Smiley” is masterful both as an eloquent abstraction of form and line, and as a richly symbolic image raising issues of nationalism and religion.
Another large painting, “Dirty Starts,” depicts a group of bald men with their backs turned to the viewer on their hands and knees facing what appears to be a tunnel. Dressed in red, white and blue pajamas or possibly prison uniforms they are ready for the “go” signal at the “dirty start” line.
Madani’s more intimately scaled works such as Hangman Lesson and Panties, and her recent video animations The Apple Tree and Chit Chat depict uncomfortable vignettes in which bald middle-aged men engage in adult games. “These stereotypically Middle Eastern men take part in painfully absurd situations that combine violence and perversity.” Pain, inflicted by others or sometimes self-inflicted, religion, extremism and “the unbearable lightness of sacrifice” are the driving forces of Madani’s powerful inventory of images.