An Anthem for Uncertain Times
ON VIEW JUNE 30 – AUGUST 28, 2022
Center of International Contemporary Art, Vancouver
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Amir H. Fallah creates paintings, murals, sculptures, and installations that explore systems of representation embedded in the history of Western art. His ornate environments combine visual vocabularies of painting and collage to deconstruct traditional notions of identity formation, while simultaneously defying expectations of the genre for portraiture by removing or obscuring the central figure.
An Anthem for Uncertain Times features works from the artist’s Veiled Portrait series alongside his socio-historical paintings, bringing archival and contemporary imagery together to examine the way cultural traditions and beliefs are passed down. Featuring the artist's signature Persian miniature-style borders criss-crossing the composition, the gridded works set up a non-hierarchical plane of imagery culled from different sources, while ornate patterns reminiscent of middle eastern tile works and textiles obscure the cautionary language that makes up the paintings' titles.
The exhibition also debuts a new series of life-sized hand-painted aluminum sculptures that continue the artist’s interrogation of systems of portraiture. Combining and flattening his sitter’s anatomical structure with personal and culturally significant objects and intricate patterns, these sculptures offer a representation devoid of signifiers of ethnicity, gender, or class. Fallah’s new sculptures utilize the personal history of his subjects as an entry point to discuss race, representation, and the memories of cultures and countries left behind.
Throughout his practice, Fallah merges references to his Iranian-American heritage with nods to Middle-Eastern art and Western portraiture. Prevalent in his paintings are visual structures that relate to Persian miniature painting, such as elaborate borders and a non-hierarchical, non-illusionistic picture plane. These visual strategies collide with systems of representation found throughout Western art history and portraiture often designed to reflect cultural status through an individual’s likeness and representations of wealth. While critical in nature, these works address the complicated and nuanced understanding of the self, especially one that is situated between cultures and geographies. Personal at their core, Fallah’s works ultimately address generational immigrant experiences of movement, trauma, and celebration through both the history of art as well as the visual culture of today.