David Kordansky Gallery presented a news circle of paintings by Tala Madani at Frieze New York. This one-person presentation, debuting concurrent with her participation in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, comprises the artist’s largest showing in New York since 2010.
Often featuring painted images of middle- aged men in all kinds of compromising and curious positions, Madani’s work upends the figurative tradition, incorporating everything from Western religious iconography to the malleable draftsmanship of cartoons and comic books, and from action painting to silkscreen painting.
In more than one composition, a frenetic explosion of white paint spews forth from a figure’s genitals, making connections between the effusive and often masculine image of and libidinous needs of the body. These gestural passages coalesce into groups of ghostly figures that mirror those that give “birth” to them. Projected into the dark spaces in which Madani sets her scenes, the seminal figures usually outnumber their creators and channel the revolutionary impulse to unseat those who wield existentially unbalanced measures of power.
Explosive white gestures are put to different use in paintings featuring images of seagulls. In each , the gulls’ aggressive excrement, rendered in burst of pain, hovers in the extreme foreground, as if it had splattered on a window positioned between the animal and the viewer. This serves as a potent reminder that there is always some kind of barrier, conceptual or physical, between desire and its object. A painting of a man crashing his limbs through rectilinear sheets of red, yellow, and blue glass comes at this theme from another specifically modernist direction.
Madani often renders her figures as integral parts of the worlds that surround the, dominating space with their bodies or their bodily emissions. However, new compositions reveal figures painted crawling amongst washy brushstrokes or pictured on a billboard in a silkscreened sunset-filled landscape. Printed and painted passages alike exemplify Madani’s ability to render immaterial atmosphere as a penetrating force; in the former light pours over the horizon , while in the latter it streams through orifices. In more ways than one , Madani’s environments subsume her depicted bodies, instrumentalizing them as vessels through which the forces of nature flow. Her new works play fast and loose with the representation of the sublime, posing profound questions about the evolving human relationship to corporeal realities at a time when internalised, virtual spaces exert increasing sway over the social imagination.
The work of Tala Madani is currently in view in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Recent solo exhibitions include shows at La Panacée, Montpellie, France (2017); MIT List Visual Arts Centre, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2016); Contemporary Art Museum, St.Louis (2016); Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain (2014) and others.