Amir H. Fallah: Reflections and Returns – Online Exhibition
Shulamit Nazarian is pleased to present Reflections and Returns, a solo presentation of early paintings from 2008–2011 by Los Angeles-based artist Amir H. Fallah. These works, which have never before been exhibited in the United States, illuminate the development of his acclaimed Veiled Portrait series, a body of work that interrogates systems of representation and portraiture in Western art history. In Reflections and Returns, paintings from Fallah’s Fort Series are combined with his earliest Veiled Portrait paintings. This presentation provides a rare glimpse into the earliest works of two significant series; core pieces that became building blocks to a prolific decade of his practice.
Fallah’s Fort Series is an essential precursor to the artist's iconic Veiled Portrait works. Inspired by Fallah’s upbringing in the suburbs of Virginia, these paintings were developed in 2008, and sought to replicate childhood memories of time spent drawing, playing in the woods, and building forts. In The Lords, Baby Snatchers, and I Put You on a Pedestal #1, Fallah enlists pillows, tables, and books to reconstruct the haphazard spaces born from childhood imagination—homes, castles, and secret hideaways carefully assembled from domestic objects readily on hand. After photographing the precarious tableaux, he would deconstruct the arrangements, only to reconfigure them in painting, thereby merging the practices of sculpture, photography, and painting. This is the nascent stage where Fallah begins to understand objects as extensions of a person in a particular moment. Continuing to explore his adolescent imagination and inspiration from his upbringing, Fallah introduces paintings of plants to represent people.
Two years after completing his Master of Fine Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles, Fallah started the fort paintings to further link his artistic practice to his Persian heritage. The presence of the border, an important marker in many of Fallah’s current paintings, first appeared in this body of work as a frame that surrounded the central objects. Later in 2011, the border motif in the paintings became more prominent, moving between the foreground and background and meandering amongst the subjects and objects depicted.
In contextualizing this practice, it is essential to recognize that Fallah had a concurrent creative practice in publishing. Before the proliferation of the internet, blogs, and Instagram, the artist would collect magazines to learn about culture and subculture, cutting out and archiving images. In 1996, he started a small black and white, DIY, photocopied ‘zine, releasing only three issues. Later in 2001, he resurrected it as Beautiful/Decay, a publication that brought together arts, design, fashion, music, and subcultures. For the artist, magazines indexed the subjects that intrigued him. Apparent in his 2008 paintings are the collaged cutouts from his magazine archive and publications, a fusion of his analog and digital practice, and an attempt to bring together his creative endeavors.
Around 2010, Fallah pivoted his practice and began visiting the homes of people close, as a method to gather source material. He shares, “I would go to someone’s home, and I wasn’t sure of what I’d see. I was at the mercy of what they had in their house. It gave me material to be in dialogue with.” Manifested in the early Veiled Portrait works made in 2011—The Indigenous Hunting Ritual, First One to Trust, Last One to Live, and On Hand and Foot—are the early attempts to depict someone’s likeness without their physical presence, interrogating the broader forms of representation of their personhood. The crude nature of the paintings demonstrates Fallah’s experimentation in rendering subjects that were without obvious markers of identity or time—a move inspired by Francis Bacon’s depictions of figures situated in an undetermined space, time, or location. These figurative works amalgamate domestic objects, the border motif, and plants as an entry point to discuss personal history, race, the body, and cultural memories.
Reflections and Returns trace the experimental lineage that led to Fallah’s notable and current Veiled Portrait series. From the start, the artist’s impulse to capture the nostalgia of building childhood forts transformed into the beginning of his portrait practice, and more directly, a portrait of himself. In keeping with his investigation, he carries over the wooden platform structure of his Fort Series into his 2011 portraits: plants that once served as surrogates for the body are replaced with veiled human figures that sit atop a pedestal. Rather than depicting one’s physical features, Fallah charts one’s likeness through the objects a person chooses to keep in their homes. These Fort Series paintings and early Veiled Portraits propose an intimate reflection of our memories, one that recalls the significance of the items we identify with and carry forward in our lives.
Amir H. Fallah received his BFA in Fine Art & Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art and his MFA in painting at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions across the United States and abroad. Selected solo exhibitions include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson; South Dakota Art Museum, Brookings SD; Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland OR; San Diego ICA; and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland KS. He was the founder of internationally recognized arts, design, fashion, and lifestyle publication Beautiful/Decay.
In 2009, the artist was chosen to participate in the 9th Sharjah Biennial. In 2015, Fallah received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant. In 2019, Fallah’s painting Calling On The Past received the Northern Trust Purchase Prize at EXPO Chicago. In 2020, Fallah was awarded the COLA Individual Artist Fellowship and the Artadia grant. In addition, the artist had a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson, accompanied by a catalog, and a year-long installation at the ICA San Jose.
The artist is in the permanent collection of the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, Miami; DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, Greece; McEvoy Foundation For The Arts, San Francisco; Nerman Museum, Kansas City; SMART Museum of Art at the University of Chicago; Davis Museum, Massachusetts; The Microsoft Collection, Washington; Plattsburg State Art Museum, NY; Cerritos College Public Art Collection, CA; Los Angeles County Department of Arts & Culture, CA; and Salsali Private Museum, Dubai, UAE.
Amir H. FallahThe Lords, 2008Acrylic on paper mounted to canvas48 x 36 in
121.9 x 91.4 cm
Amir H. FallahThe Indigenous Hunting Ritual, 2011Acrylic, oil, ink, collage, and pencil on paper mounted to canvas96 x 72 in
243.8 x 182.9 cm
Amir H. FallahBaby Snatchers, 2008Acrylic on paper mounted to canvas48 x 36 in
121.9 x 91.4 cm
Amir H. FallahOn Hand and Foot, 2011Acrylic, oil, ink, collage, and pencil on panel72 1/8 x 48 in
182.9 x 121.9 cm
Amir H. FallahI Put You on a Pedestal #1 , 2008Acrylic on paper mounted to canvas60 x 48 in
Amir H. FallahFirst One to Trust, Last One to Live, 2011Acrylic, oil, ink, collage, and pencil on paper mounted to canvas60 x 48 in
152.4 x 121.9 cm