Amir H. Fallah explores the boundaries of portraiture in his newest exhibitthis February at the New Gordon Gallery
“The everyday materials that we live with tell the story of who we are” – Amir H. Fallah
A dusty couch cushion, a chipped willow pattern teacup, an old quilt strewn haphazardly across the bed. These household objects may seem banal at first glance, but underneath their surface lie years of history-charged stories. While some bypass these ‘mundane’ objects, Amir H. Fallah views them as conduits for personal conversation: “You can never really tell why people live with certain objects. There’s almost always a great story behind everything,” the Iranian-American artist shares insight into his newest project, "Wild Frontiers."
Much like contemporary chefs deconstruct dishes to craft their culinary masterpieces, the L.A.-based painter deconstructs the tradition and history of portraiture to create his careful character studies. His "archeological dig" involves visiting the homes of his subjects (whether friends or strangers), dismantling their lives through the heirlooms they have chosen to hoard, then rearranging them into a still life that reincorporates the subject. Through this process, Fallah transforms his final portraits into "symbolic collages" of the elements that describe that person.
Moreover, by cloaking his subjects’ faces beneath bold patterns and fabrics discovered during his house visits, the artist eliminates any preconception of age, gender, or ethnicity, while simultaneously stressing the importance of the surrounding objects. In "Deer Whisperer," the eye is drawn to the magenta throw pillows and satin bow draped over the hidden subject, then to the deer figurine blending into the backdrop, while the vibrant yellows and oranges of the shrouded Shaman compliment the turquoise beads that pop against the pleated fabric.
In all of these paintings, the colorist at heart grapples with essential questions about identity: How does one depict another without showing the usual signifiers associated with a portrait? How can one describe another without seeing what they look like?
While each painting's title maintains his subject's secrecy, Fallah does give us a couple of hints towards their collective identity. The title "Wild Frontiers" refers to California, which was once considered the Wild West or the Final Frontier. Today, the fairly young state lacks the rigid history of the east coast, enabling creative minds to experiment and explore. The title also brings in a natural element whereby the unruly plants entangling each figure allude to L.A.'s explosive, chaotic, expansive energy. “There is a controlled chaos in the creators of Los Angeles. I wanted to capture that wild and creative energy in my show,” admits Fallah.
When asked if his paintings will be accompanied by written narratives, the artist emphasizes his desire to leave the portraits open ended. The exhibit should “ask more questions than it answers.”
"Wild Frontiers," curated by Amon Yariv & Michal Freedman, will be on display at the New Gordon Gallery through the month of February.
Tue-Thu 11:00-19:00, Fri 10:00-14:00, Sat 10:00-13:00, or by appointment. New Gordon Gallery, 6 Hapelech St, Tel Aviv (http://gordongallery.co.il/)
Jennifer Greenberg is the Web Editor of Time Out Israel. She gave up her maple syrup addiction to move to Tel Aviv from Canada, but brought with her a knack for sophisticated diction, thanks to her grandfather who kept words like 'haberdashery' hip, cool and happening.