‘The Patron Saint of Sideshow,’ The Found Theatre, Long Beach, CA. by James Scarborough
‘Post Mortem Presents: A Very Victorian Christmas,’ Post Mortem Movement Theatre, Long Beach, CA, by James Scarborough

Hossein Khosrojerdi at Tara Gallery, by James Scarborough

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Admirality Arch 2014

50.75” x 61.75” mixed media on cardboard
Photos courtesy of Tara Gallery.

In 2009 Hossein Khosrojerdi and his family left Iran to seek political asylum in England. His interest in the country’s popular but politically dangerous green movement as well as shrinking opportunities for post-Revolution Iranian artists provided the impetus. “Redefining Home”, his current exhibition of paintings and digital media at Tara Gallery, is his first U.S. solo show. It maps his psychological journeys from 2004 to 2014. He aims to portray people who drift along without the consolations of a solid identity. His work isn’t as desolate as it might appear. It’s more of a transitional phase, of finding one’s way in the dark. That’s what his work is about, trying to find meaning amidst confusion if not despair

It’s hard to believe that each piece in the show comes from the same artist. Some of it’s abstract, some representational. Both styles, however, are emphatic and monumental, staged and theatrical. Khosrojerdi doesn’t analyze figures and forms. Nor does he set them in apocalyptic atmospheres. Instead, like Picasso’s “Guernica,” he unleashes them to roil in a free fall of inchoate and frantic urgency. The abstract pieces, especially, express an acute state of anxiety. Each resembles mid-assembly jigsaw puzzles whose pieces have been mixed with pieces of other puzzles. Trying to put together a puzzle with mismatched pieces updates the Sisyphus myth for 21st century artists.

In an abstract piece like “Molaghat (Meeting) we see the effects of this urgency. There’s no coherent focal point. Lines crisscross every which way. They change direction. The same line describes geometric and organic shapes. The foreground shapes could be body parts or building fragments. Each are spectral, drained of vitality. They’re shaded so, with no obvious purpose, they turn and agitate. Each suggests a slow motion entropy. Of equal interest are the negative spaces. While the fragments are whitish, the negative spaces resound with bright colors, as if they want to reassemble and coalesce into a unified, more vibrant whole. If indeed there’s a meeting take place here, no one, clearly, is on the same page at least for the moment.

While the abstract work has no defined focal point and no point of entry, “Admirality Arch”, one of Khosrojerdi’s representational pieces, is more spacious and accommodating. As in a Mannerist painting, we’re led right into the piece’s deep center space, up to the three arches at the back. As imposing a structure as it might be, a) there’s not a soul in sight and b) the entire structure is under construction, covered with scaffolding. If the figures in “Molaghat” are ghosts of people, then “Admirality Arch” is a ghost of a building in a permanent state of being built.

Despite the scenarios that Khosrojerdi paints, his work is not bleak. His abstract works’ negative spaces and his buildings’ empty spaces are evidence that life hasn’t stalled, it’s just paused, until closed spaces and repressed societies become open and free ones, until darkness becomes, if not light, then at least less dark.