Below are some installation shots and the press release from my recent show at Cody Gallery, which got a nice mention in the Washington Post here.
Cody Gallery at Marymount University is pleased to present The Taking, a solo exhibition by Negar Ahkami. The Taking consists of conceptually linked paintings covering a range of themes, and a monumental installation of fragmented pieces made to appear as broken ceramic shards. The exhibition examines varied instances of appropriation of Persian art and culture in Western civilization, from ancient periods to present day’s politics. In The Taking, Ahkami weaves a narrative that serves as a reminder that history and recollection, while often fragmented and broken, may be retold.
The Taking is named after the installation of 29 painted fragments and accompanying wall text. Mimicking a museum display of archaeological artifacts, the fragments depict details of actual source material such as paintings, photographs, textiles, ceramics, reliefs and architectural motifs. Each fragment was chosen for its connections to the rich visual legacy of Iran and its neighbors. These details are pulled from a wide range of sources including: an Italian altarpiece, Ancient Greek pottery, a carpet found in a Vermeer painting, and Majolica tiles. At first glance, they may be identified as primarily Western however, the wall text identifies the sources and treats Persian and Ancient Near Eastern contributions as central instead of footnoted. The Taking acknowledges these forgotten sources while simultaneously taking liberties, building a narrative from scraps, and finding both pride and courage in new discoveries.
Also included in the exhibition is a range of fantastical paintings that both inspire and are inspired from The Taking. The exuberant paintings highlight the ambiguous state of fear and adoration often realized encountering different cultures, often stereotyped as "Other." Ahkami depicts enthrallment with exotic stimuli in “The Caftan” –part Orientalist satire, part loving tribute to the escapism of material pleasures. In this painting, as is typical of Ahkami’s practice, Ahkami builds bas-reliefs of gesso, and paints in repeated glazes of acrylic paint. The effect resembles Iranian ceramic traditions, at the same time as it conjures global iterations of blue and white ceramics and Majolica. In Iranian ceramics, Ahkami finds real global connections as well as a freeing, unrestrictive sense of the hand that serves her expressionistic impulses.
Click on images below to view slideshow of installation shots: