Situated in East Hollywood, in a complex that was home to Ed Ruscha’s first studio, The Lodge, like many contemporary galleries, is wrapped in layers of history. It is fitting, then, that the current exhibit there is one artist’s meditation on her own intersecting histories – in other words – “her negotiation of two cultures.” Maysha Mohamedi is a young, Iranian-American painter who lives and works in Los Angeles. Co-founder of the art collective Binder of Women, she is active within the artistic community on multiple scales; several weeks ago, a traditional and informal Coffee Reading gathering took place at the gallery, in which Mohamedi herself interpreted the coffee and conversed with attendees.
Large and small paintings decorate the walls within the first room, with some incorporating lines of glitter, while others feature scratchy marks – some harnessing a combination of both. Consistent throughout her pieces are the primary colors: reds, blues, greens, yellows. It is with these solid and simplistic colors that the duality of the meanings become apparent. Mohamedi’s works reference “fate, play, and dominance – ideologies central to the Iranian mind.”
The 71 x 27-inch Monarch Splat (Largo) (2018) faces the viewer with abstract arches and organic splotches of yellow, orange, and black. On the left wall is Christmas Beetle Pleasure Dome (2017), in which sketchy, insect-like markings float. Though rendered in oil on linen, this work clearly proves an appreciation for the mixed media employed in her other works – thin ribbons of pen, thick strokes of paint, feathery stretches of graphite – to name a few.
The space, charming and quirky, also features a sun-drenched alleyway that leads into a second room, where larger-scale paintings like The Hardest Fontanelle (2018) and Pinball Wizard (2018) more explicitly emulate calligraphic forms from the Farsi alphabet; curvilinear lines, some ghastly, some writhing, sit in front of large expanses of solid color. (The whimsical titles of her works often satirically allude to their geometric compositions.)
In the case of Off Ma Meds (2018), red, white, and blue engage and oscillate against a black background. A drip here and there, small indistinguishable shapes, and a seemingly construed Farsi text are accompanied by a singular patch of green abstraction that floats at the right of the canvas. Chromatic moments like these more explicitly allude to Mohamedi’s bicultural identity. It is the calligraphic moments that, the gallery writes, “symbolize the lens through which Mohamedi represents the internal world of her gender, her species, and her self.”
The artist’s scientific background makes itself apparent in some of her works, as well: found tar, sourced from local and nearby beaches, play a part in defining the dark backgrounds on her canvases. In an interview with Matter of Hand, Mohamedi describes artistic intuity as a sort of membrane: “I want to make paintings that feel very true. I think I can do that if I don’t control the inception of the idea very much. I’m sort of like a semipermeable membrane; I just look at what’s around me, watch the thoughts that I have, listen to my children, listen to the air…”
Though spiritually introspective and self-reflective, her works also utilize rugged forms sourced from places external (the afore-mentioned beaches, for example.) Some more figurative, some more lexical, the paintings vibrate and whirl with the lines and shapes that comprise them – just as Mohamedi herself is whirling, weaving, and decorating her own identity. Exploring, among many other questions, what it means to be a an Iranian-American woman, Mohamedi is, in this adaptable yet rooted stance, fulfilling OAR TATIG – that is, being “Open and Receptive to All That is Good.”
- Natalie Pashaie, 2018
Reviewed by Katie Kirk
Maysha Mohamedi’s exhibition, Oar Tatig, features two rooms with 12 paintings of various sizes in her solo show at The Lodge. The use of gesture and inventive mark-making is the through line that threads the work together. The lyrical swoops found in many of the paintings are inspired by her ancestral language, calligraphic Farsi, and a vintage Persian/English illustrated dictionary the artist owns. While the script-like gestures celebrate her Iranian-American identity, the work is also deeply personal. There are hints of the artist as mother, music-lover, and even her previous training in chemistry sprinkled throughout the show.
Mohamedi’s work is full of play—a nod to both an ideology central in Iranian culture and Mohamedi’s diverse studio practice. She invents ways to achieve different types of marks and freely uses materials. In the studio, Mohamedi paints with a long stick intended to obscure the natural movement of her hand. Little plastic army men sometimes serve as stamps on the canvas. In The Hardest Fontanelle, gold glitter, oil and graphite scale the surface of the painting. She also mixes hand-collected tar from the beach in her paint, drawing on her background in the biological sciences.
Her paintings are worlds, full of mischievous narratives—non-linear, culture-crossing, mash-ups of animals, nature, and landscapes. The titles reinforce this fun, party bag experience. They are pulled from fragments of thoughts, songs, veiled confessions and even her children’s suggestions. In Sneaking Into Your House Music, the splotches of paint take form into what looks like a dragon, allowing viewers to try to reconcile the paradoxical image of a sneaking dragon. Another title, Duck Diving Under a Tiny and Indifferent Sun, seems like it could be from a bedtime tale. These moments create a sense of pleasure and humor in the work.
Mohamedi presents an exhibition that is a celebration of the “in between”. It represents a negotiation between two cultures explored through the many dualities in her work. At points it seems like nothing is off limits, but the controlled color pallet brings a formal restraint to the work that keeps things tied together. This allows the viewer to get lost and enjoy the obscurities that each piece generously has to offer.
Images courtesy of Bayley Mizelle, The Lodge
SATURDAY, 8 SEPTEMBER
Off Ma Meds, 2018, 90” x 58”, Oil, tar and china marker on canvasMAYSHA MOHAMEDI: OAR TATIG
OPENING RECEPTION SATURDAY 8 SEPTEMBER, 6-9PM
The Lodge is pleased to present Oar Tatig, an exhibition of new paintings by Iranian-American artist Maysha Mohamedi. Oar Tatig is an acronym that stands for the phrase "Open and Receptive to All That is Good."
The exhibition features new work that evolves Mohamedi's idiosyncratic gestural language, formally drawing upon the calligraphic line of her ancestral language, Farsi - a language rich in metaphor and poetic suggestion, serving to symbolize the lens through which Mohamedi represents the internal world of her gender, her species, and her self.
Depicting her negotiation of two cultures, the works present motifs of figuration and abstraction. Using her trademark palette of primary colors and an unorthodox collection of mark-making, Mohamedi references fate, play, and dominance - ideologies central to the Iranian mind. Underscoring these works is Mohamedi's training in chemistry and the greater biological sciences, as she hand collects beach tar from the beaches of Santa Barbara and distills this blackest of black substances into paint -- humorously circumventing the painter's creed to never use black straight from the tube, the artist endeavors to tap her original source: Mother Earth.
Maysha Mohamedi is an Iranian-American painter who lives and works in Los Angeles. Her studio is located in the Fashion District in Downtown LA but she uses materials from all over: from beach tar that she collects with her sons on the beaches of Santa Barbara to tubes of Middle Eastern paint imported from her mother country of Iran. She has exhibited widely in New York and Los Angeles, including exhibitions at The Hole, The Pit and Steve Turner Contemporary. She is also a founding member of the Los Angeles art collective, Binder of Women. Maysha is the recipient of several award and residences, ranging from a National Science Foundation Fellowship in Tokyo, to an AICAD New York Studio Residency. Her work has been profiled in the LA Times, The Huffington Post, SF Arts Quarterly and The Conversation Art Podcast.
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www.thelodge.laGallery Hours: Thursday–Saturday 12:00–6:00 pm and by appointment
Binder of Women presents – Heat Wave & Reaching Point Break
Opening Reception: Saturday August 18th, 6-9pm
Exhibition Dates: August 18th – September 15th
Binder of Women is excited to announce Heat Wave it’s first collective show in San Francisco, and Reaching Point Break, a concurrent show curated by members of Binder of Women at Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco. Heat Wave and Reaching Point Break reflect Binder of Women’s intent to highlight a growing number of important artists. These side by side shows allow Binder of Women to present multiple iterations of work and foster an continually evolving roster of Binder of Women affiliates/participants/artists/cohorts/comrades(?).
Heat Wave features work by artists Michelle Blade, Claire Colette, Yasmine Diaz, Jamie Felton, Kysa Johnson, Lindsey Lyons, Bruna Massadas, Maysha Mohamedi, Erin Morrison, Laurie Nye, and Anna Schachte. Referring to the new wave of feminism as well as the pattern of weather which deviates from the norms of the specific climate, this Heat Wave brings a slew of Los Angeles artists to the cooler environs of San Francisco for this summer show.
Reaching Point Break features work by artists Rema Ghuloum, Kristy Luck, Chinwe Okona, Sarah Thibault, and Ginger Wolfe-Suarez. Point Break is surfing terminology for the moment when a wave breaks after hitting a point of land jutting out from the coastline, creating an almost perfect surfable wave. The selection of artists above create work that in some way refers to hitting a point of transformation from one phase to another, personally, collectively, and/or in nature. Reaching Point Break will take place in a gallery adjacent to the main gallery.
Binder of Women (BOW) is an artist-run project comprised of artists Hayley Barker, Michelle Blade, Claire Colette, Jamie Felton, Kysa Johnson, Lindsey Lyons, Bruna Massadas, Maysha Mohamedi, Erin Morrison, Laurie Nye, and Hilary Pecis.
Conceptualized in Los Angeles in 2017 by painter Hilary Pecis, BOW is an independent platform for contemporary artists to share their work. This is a unified move to empower female artists, expand their reach, broach the topic of equality and consent in the art world, and take action to grow the number of works by female identifying artists in contemporary art collections. BOW’s inaugural project was a collective folio of limited edition works on paper by each of the ten establishing artists. A folio release party was held at The Pit, Glendale, CA, in December 2017, and a limited number of folios are still available at thebinderofwomen.com.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Maysha Mohamedi.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I am an Iranian-American artist. I grew up on the California Coast in a small town called San Luis Obispo. I come from a long line of creative people: my grandmother is a painter and my mother is a designer; my father can build anything. My first language was Farsi – a language rich in metaphor and poetic suggestion – thus the lens with which I first interpreted the world greatly amplified the already-psychedelic point of view of a child. Representing an internal world (my own, my gender’s, my species’) in abstract and unexpected ways, primarily through paint on a canvas, is the long-running thesis of my studio.
Please tell us about your art.
I make large-scale, colorful, abstract paintings that include illustrative and representational moments. Formally, I pull inspiration from the iconic calligraphic line of my native language of Farsi. The content of my work is drawn from what I know to be true in my everyday life: the experience of being a woman, mother, wife and Iranian in my American world. My work originates out of a deep connection with myself, but I make this work for the people.
Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
Artists have a unique power to explore, provide commentary and elicit engagement around social and cultural issues with more flexibility in intention and execution than a journalist might; it’s not a new responsibility. I primarily make abstract work that can be influenced by our current political climate, however sometimes I will punctuate this abstraction with an explicitly political sculpture. For example: my recent sculpture “Surfing the Apocalypse” shows four different deadly dinosaurs surfing a great wave. Each dinosaur is painted in colors and patterns symbolizing the flags of the following four countries: North Korea, Russia, Iran and the United States.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My solo show opens at The Lodge in Los Angeles on September 8th, 2018.