Farhad Bahram. Reciprocality (2012); color photograph; 4 x 12 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

It has been too long since my last Shotgun Review for Art Practical! I wrote about In the Current show, which showcases some phenomenal Iranian artists! Below, you will find my write-up. Please enjoy and I highly recommend stopping by the exhibit. Enjoy!

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In the Currents, an exhibition of Iranian-American artists curated by Taraneh Hemami and Lucy Kalyani Lin, complicates and makes personal the ways in which Iran and Iranian culture are portrayed in much of Western media.

In Azin Seraj’s video installation, kaseye sabr labriz mishavad (bowl of patience, 2012), four Iranians speak about how their lives have been affected by the United Nations sanctions against Iran. Seraj layers the footage of the speakers with that of droplets of water filling a bowl, creating contorted and muddled images of the speakers, though their voices are clearly heard. Curiously, the visual rippling effect forces a viewer to concentrate on the intonation of words—even though only Farsi-speaking viewers are likely to understand them.

Farhad Bahram’s piece, Reciprocal Subject (2012), also complicates the view of its subjects. Like Seraj, Bahram empowers the subjects and makes them anonymous, but  they share in the creation of the work. Bahram and each subject simultaneously took pictures of each other in open public spaces, and Bahram arranged the resulting color photos on a board in an apparent order or system that mimics a scrapbook, with names appearing beside each photo. Each of the faces is partially obscured by a camera, frustrating any viewer’s desire to identify the subjects. The public spaces that serve as backdrops add an additional level of neutrality and anonymity. Still, there is a complicity that only exists between Bahram and each subject, leaving viewers curious about their relationship.

Another notable piece, Flag (2012), from Sanaz Mazinani’s series “Conference of the Birds,” uses photographic images to create a patterned flag reflective not of a particular region but of a specific idea. Her flag is rooted in solidarity as opposed to being grounded in a specific physical location. The repeated images coalesce to form a tightly knit pattern that creates a visual mesh of people, places, and cultures. Mazinani’s work, along with that of Seraj and Barham, blurs the expected lines of perception and demands that viewers participate in the act of seeing not only their works but also their culture.

IN THE CURRENTS IS ON VIEW AT THE ASIAN RESOURCE CENTER GALLERY, IN OAKLAND, THROUGH JUNE 15, 2012.

Original posted to Shotgun Reviews on Art Practical, please click here to view.

Click on the image above to view the article on Asterisk SF

Painting requires the artist to solve problems both physical and mental. It requires patience, a keen awareness of traditional elements, a deft understanding of color, and a mastery of composition so that the viewer’s eyes move fluidly and effortlessly through the subject and its environment. From abstraction to photo-realism, a well-executed painting offers visual stimulation that persists and warrants multiple investigations. Within the discipline, the female nude remains a perennial subject matter. Its ubiquity is unlikely to diminish, even in this digitally laden age. The painter Aaron Nagel pushes and commands the oils on his canvas in such a way that flesh appears supple and soft to the touch. Although female subjects dominate his work, all seem vigilant and aware of the viewer’s gaze. Deriving much of his learning and inspiration from old Masters such as Caravaggio with a deep admiration for contemporaries such as Jenny Saville and Kent Williams, Nagel uses the innovations of these artists as inspiration in pushing his technical skills.

Nagel’s technique methodically converges colors to create the perfect highlight or shadow on his figures. His bravado with the paintbrush is an admirable quality along with his commitment to painting what he believes is aesthetically pleasing and the work welcomes a multitude of complex interpretations. In “Blue Blood II,” the viewer’s attention is drawn to composition as the subject is placed in an unorthodox position. The blue blood that flows from the stigmata wound seems to drip off the canvas. That drop of blood hangs precariously from the tip of the left shoulder, flowing extraordinarily against the skin and guiding the eyes to the arch of the neck and lean of the body.  Another noteworthy painting is “Senza Pieta,” Nagel’s rendition of French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1876 work, “Pieta.” This painting suggests the Artist’s desire to summons an overt challenge to his practice, which usually involves a sole female subject. A consistent visual theme of women set against black backgrounds allows for sheer focus and a regal stillness. Black paint is another constant throughout his work: delicately painted against the body and hands as shown in “The Calming”  which proves to be an exercise in capturing the brilliance of light reflected onto a subject. Such high contrast elements display Nagel’s painstaking attention to detail. Similar to “Senza,” the absence of an environment in “Shrapnel” mimics a body under siege. The pushing of the right foot slightly above the left calf — working in tandem with the hunched, crouched position of the figure — provides the perfect balance of depth and perspective.

The rich tones and stoic posturing, along with the re-contextualization of catholic imagery in his latest series, show his depth and desire to evolve. Future works offer promising and deeper explorations into coloration and light that I’m certain will leave a mark of precision on the canvas. Brimming with talent, an unrelenting art practice, and constant study, Nagel’s burgeoning career as a figurative painter is on the cusp of even more challenging and thought provoking work.

Published to Asterisk SF Magazine – Volume 2 Issue 2

Yes, folks, I still love painting and I still write about artists who use traditional methods. I wanted to give you a little taste of what’s to come. I’m currently working on an article about Bay Area artist, Aaron Nagel. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to discuss his art and practice BUT here’s a great video from the Warholian. Enjoy!

Artist Aaron Nagel Studio Interview – Warholian Profile Series – Warholian.com from Warholian on Vimeo.