Maysha Mohamedi is thinking ahead – way ahead — to a time 62 years hence when humans have migrated to Kepler-442b, an extrasolar planet thought to be capable of sustaining life. Her contribution to this fictional effort – an exhibition called Blast Off from Earth!! – is intended to function as a time capsule, signaling to extraterrestrials, the nature of Earth-bound existence circa 2019. Should such an event take place, it would join the Golden Record, a collection of audio recordings and images that NASA sent into space in 1977. While these space shots (Voyager I and II) were meant to portray the diversity of human experience, Blast Off, an exhibition of eight abstract paintings, represents only Mohamedi’s. Her idiosyncratic works consist of pencil marks, imprints, calligraphic scrawls, and glyph-like shapes, which, when arrayed across canvases large and small, read more like prehistoric cave paintings than artifacts of a post-industrial superpower.
Each piece is a puzzle whose components suggest a variety of things: bird tracks, teeth, musical notation and letters, some recognizable, some not. The latter are derived from Farsi, a language the LA-born artist acquired from her Iranian parents but never learned to read
or write. Consequently, the shapes carry emotional resonance, but no literal meaning. Freed from linguistic association, the “letters” serve as jumping off points for improvisation. Stretched, bent and severed, they form a recursive library of non-objective forms that call out for interpretation but steadfastly resist it. Other imprinted and/or painted shapes resembling Matisse’s dancers appear against monochromatic grounds in several large (81 x 65-inch) canvases, while jagged, rawhide-like patterns reminscent of those Clifford Still painted show up in several smaller canvases. While much pleasure can be taken from cataloging the variety and textures of these marks, the inference of embedded messages is best seen at distance. From that vantage, the paintings take on something of the character of Nazca lines: ancient Peruvian earthworks that archeologists have long speculated were created to communicate with gods.
While it’s doubtful that space-bound vehicles will take Mohamedi’s paintings into space — digital files would be a likelier bet – it’s heartening to see a young artist thinking along these lines, projecting visions of humanity into an unfathomable future. In the meantime it will be worth watching to see where the artist goes next with this highly personal iconography.
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Maysha Mohamedi: “Blast Off from Earth!!” @ Gallery 16 through March 29, 2019.
About the author:
David M. Roth is the editor and publisher of Squarecylinder.
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