"The immigrant home rests precariously in that space between memories of a mythical past and the chimeric dreams of possible futures. Raised by immigrant Iranian parents in America, the artist Negar Ahkami's sensibilities have been colored by this vivid, cacophonous space in between. Her artistic response is at once embracing and angry, celebratory and sardonically derisive, humorous and touchingly painful." (Excerpt from Shiva Balgahi's Essay).
"Over the past decade, Ahkami has been carefully honing a style that is her own. In the late 1990s, she did a series of lipstick paintings and went on to work with coffee stains, glitter and found objects. The years of experimentations have evolved into a style now seen in a series of paintings [on view at Leila Heller Gallery in New York]." (Excerpt from Shiva Balaghi's Essay)
"Drawing on colors and patterns from Islamic and Orientalist art, Ahkami layers gesso and acrylic to achieve thick, almost three dimensional surfaces for her narrative paintings. 'I always thought Matisse had a way of rendering his Middle Eastern or North African subjects invisible,' she explains, 'and a lot of my work responds to that invisibility -- either by subverting it or replicating it.'" (Excerpt from Shiva Balaghi's Essay)
"The Fall, the centerpiece of the show at [Leila Heller Gallery], is a 5 x 4 ft quixotic landscape. Drawing on techniques and imagery from Persian manuscript art, the painting demonstrates Ahkami's gift for graphic storytelling that finds inspiration and troubling fodder in both East and West. Specifically, the painting explores the inherent tension between the pride Iranians feel towards their culture and the demonized image of them that is pervasive in the media." (Excerpt from Shiva Balaghi's Essay)
"On the panel, streams of immigrants make the treacherous journey from a fabled Iran. 'The oval in the center of the painting,' explains Ahkami, 'is a distant, glittery, colorful, fantastical world of upheaval, meltdown and exodus.' Along the way, the immigrants pass through the landscapes of illuminated manuscripts --whose infamous hunting scenes now feature naked women rather than gazelles." (Excerpt from Shiva Balaghi's Essay)
"Perched on their exilic baggage, they watch...American society whose consumerism is embedded with an Eastern topos. The figures that populate Ahkami's satirical view of American pop culture picnic on a Persian carpet, nibble Iranian caviar...as they read [texts] portraying Iranians as "the other." Ahkami subverts that unspoken...narrative that...immigrants leave behind places of dark repression for an always embracing...West. In the vivid artistic vision of Negar Ahkami, nothing is ever so black and white." (Excerpt from Shiva Balaghi's Essay)