January 13, 2015

Amir H. Fallah:Perfect Strangers

18th Street Arts Center
Amir H. Fallah, Between The Folds 2, 2014. Acrylic and
pencil on paper mounted to canvas, 40.6 x 35.6 cm.
Courtesy of The Third Line, Dubai U.A.E.

Exploring ideas of portrait/anti-portrait, Amir H. Fallah offers a vision of community described through the deliberate arrangement of sentimental ephemera, collected from subjects known and unknown, that embraces the nuances of the process by which we establish a sense of self. Much like a historian or ethnographer, Fallah works with a diverse mix of local communities and groups to collect material evidence of their private and public lives and transform them into artworks. Portraits are composed using objects and textiles the subjects deemed significant, developing an exploration of the ways that identities are formed out of emotional associations with—and nostalgia for—specific products, objects, and places.

Fallah’s work explores themes of constructed identity through portraiture. In his most recent series of paintings, he has been creating anti-portraits: figurative works that start by exploring materials within each subject’s home and end with paintings that reveal none of the usual physical signifiers we often associate with portraits. His process begins with collecting evidence and photographing people with their personal objects. He then applies a series of edits and transformations to deconstruct and rebuild a portrait of each person through the items they hold dear. By masking an individual’s identity and focusing on objects as signifiers instead, Fallah illuminates each sitter’s experiences and particularities describing a multi-dimensional web of references linking contradictions and connections between space, time, art, and history. Figures floating in a neutral black field evoke Francis Bacon’s use of abstract space creating a psychological environment, removing any real spatial references. Fractured neon lights traverse the canvas, mimicking the elaborate arabesque borders of Persian miniatures.

The resulting works are an investigation of form, texture, and color, but most importantly of risks and failures. Utilizing a layered multimedia technique that combines collage, printing, painting, and installation, Fallah describes individual narratives through the deliberate arrangement of sentimental ephemera. Perfect Strangers reinterprets and gives new weight to everyday objects as active participants in the construction of self-identification. Fallah’s compositions, both fluid and fragmented, embrace the moments when things do not quite align, investing the work with a sense of honesty revealing complex factors of identity which cannot be expressed through a simple corporeal rendering. Inviting the community and its objects into the Artist Lab, Fallah articulates a sense of regional identity that is ambiguous, yet informed by the perspective of an international artist who calls the Los Angeles metro area home.

Amir H. Fallah (b. 1979 Tehran, Iran) received his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2001 and his MFA from UCLA in 2005. Fallah will open a solo exhibition of new work, From Primitive to Present, at Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles in March 2015. Recent solo shows include Between the Folds, Joyce Gallery, Hong Kong (2014); and The Collected at Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco, and Third Line, Dubai (2013). His work was featured at Frieze Art Fair in 2014 and in the Ninth Sharjah Biennial in 2009.


18th Street Arts Center is the largest continuous artist residency program in Southern California. Its core gallery program, Artist Lab Residency, stimulates public dialogue around the role of artists in society through process-based, commissioned projects intending to foster exploration and experimentation providing in-depth opportunities for artists to critically develop their practice. Structured as both a residency and an exhibition, individual artists or collectives develop new work and generate provocative programming.

Acknowledgements: This program has been made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Amir H. Fallah at 18th Street Arts Center

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