Sept. 23-Nov. 7, 2020
All images courtesy of Rachel Uffner Gallery and the artist.
Maryam Hoseini’s paintings included in her current solo show Yes Sky reveal no identifying elements of time nor culture. The sole signifier that this body of work was painted in 2020 is the compelling sense of longing for companionship and escape, at any cost. The amorphic figures in Hoseini’s paintings despair, fight, play, and love within the confines of their fragile, isolated, and abstracted world.
Most of Hoseini’s paintings protrude from the walls on wood panels propped with what may be emptied paper towel or gift wrap rolls. This sculptural presentation allows the curious observer to peer behind the paintings, revealing the unveiled construction of the wood panels. Hoseini’s atypically-carved polygonal shapes further challenge paintings’ classical form, thus enabling the artist to fracture and reorientate varying moments in time and space into a single composition.
Ambiguous characters in Hoseini’s paintings resist conforming to identification of gender, race, and sometimes even species. In Happy Victims, a symmetrical amalgam of bodies on the top right portion of the structure reaches for one another in desperation of lust, conflict, or simple human contact. Although these bodies overlap, they never connect–revealing themselves to exist on separate planes. Upon close inspection, pencil marks form delicate body hairs between and around legs and underneath armpits. Hoseini’s characters are often headless, and portions of their bodies are depicted in varying colors, obscuring who they may be. On the center-left of Happy Victims, large, displaced, anthropomorphic parts may be retreating or being held apart from each other as they are engulfed by a blue background, the eponymous “Sky” of the exhibition’s title. In refusing to force identity onto her figures, Hoseini resists the viewer’s attempt to fit them into society’s assumed potential molds.
Pointing long, sharp, fingers upwards in rebellion, conquest, or joy, two bodies arrive at the top of the wood panel in Hoseini’s Wild West by riding the back of an amorphous animal-like form. Light peaks through a delicately-rendered wire fence in the direction they face, towards escape. The strong backs and legs of others have uplifted these two to glory, while the laborers are left in the bottom portion of the arrangement. The animal-like creature holds two cups upside down–a unique illustration of the reversed Two of Cups Tarot which symbolizes discord and distrust. In this show of a selfish rise to the top thanks to the efforts of others, Wild West illustrates an abrupt inequality: pride for those at the top and exploitation for those beneath them.
Disjointed unreality materializes in Hoseini’s work. On the bottom left of the wood panel in One Good Sky Will Come, a rare juncture of identification appears with master of spatial obscurity Henri Matisse’s 1910 painting Dance. Although Hoseini’s dancers hold hands and lean in a loose circular motion as in Matisse’s masterpiece, here, the performers morph between human and animal as one dancer’s head resembles that of a horse or a dog. Simultaneously, limbs warp, multiply, and vary in color in this joyous, fragmented, moment. The separate scene on the top right of this composition portrays two much larger and upside-down characters who float or fall over the edge of the canvas. Such varying scales, orientations, and styles compress space to portray multiple times and dimensions synchronously in a single configuration, under one sky.
Hoseini’s figures fluctuate in form within their unstable contemporaneous environments in a subtle allusion to the pains of isolation and harsh truths of deep inequality in our capitalist society. At the heart of this body of work: a spiritual drive for connection and a contention for reaching and thus understanding one another.
Kirsten Cave is an art writer and gallery assistant at Alexander Berggruen, NY. She holds an MA in Art Market Studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her writing has been published in Degree Critical.