Whitehot Magazine

June 2011: HK Zamani @ CB1 Gallery

HK Zamani, Untitled, No. (7), 2011
Courtesy of the artist and CB1 Gallery

HK Zamani: In Between Air, Land and Sea
CB1 Gallery
207 W. 5TH Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

May 22 to July 2, 2011

In this solo exhibition of 16 recent paintings, Los Angeles artist and curator, HK Zamani, creates his own compelling visual lexicon. Painted in the last two years -- mostly in less than five months from January 2011 until the artist completed the last strokes the day the show was mounted -- the work is so fresh, the scent of oil paint wafts off the canvas. Ambiguous in a satisfying way, the paintings are abstract, but at the same time, offer contextual references to landscapes. Architectural forms emerge from layered horizontal planes, described in rich texture, rendered in visible brushstrokes. The dome shape is echoed repeatedly, a comforting symbol, like a welcome refuge of civilization in an unfamiliar expanse of desert.

In a stroke of good luck, Zamani’s work is ideally suited to this gallery space. There are two large rooms with high ceilings and worn cement floors partly inlayed with tiny old ceramic tiles -- reminiscent of the Moorish palaces of the Alhambra. It’s clear the exhibition was installed with great care. The east gallery is hung with large-scale paintings, a departure for Zamani, who until recently has confined himself to a smaller format. An earlier series of small canvases focused on geodesic domes. The artist has moved on, abandoning the geodesic part, deconstructing the dome to a simpler form and graduating to something bigger. Apparently, the large scale has set him free, allowing the images to expand, and fill the frame with newly realized significance.
The paintings are untitled, allowing the viewer to encounter them with few preconceptions. One of the larger canvases, Untitled No. (14), 2011 (70 1/2” X 78 1/2”) confronts the viewer on entering the east gallery. Adding to its impact, the image spills over into its reflection on the shiny floor. A large black arc spans the width of the canvas. Under the arc or dome shape, a faint line is delineated, suggesting a horizon in the distance. In Untitled No. (10), 2011 (60” X 72”) Zamani explores an interplay of shapes. Not geometric, they’re comprised of a hybrid form of his own making, part spherical, part rectangular, the shapes provide a point of departure. On the surface, they are flat, but the relationships among them manage to convey a sense of imagined depth.  Anchored by an uneven horizon line, the hybrid rectangular form sits in the middle ground. Occupying space, it rests between a blue foreground, and wide horizontal bands of cadmium orange and cobalt blue. Inside the rectangle, a row of overlapping arcs, or dome shapes, offers an illusion of three-dimensional space.

In Untitled, No. (23), 2010 (24” X 36”), the palette is more subdued, the composition more subtle. Simple curving lines in blue, black and gray emerge from a muted background, mostly in varied tones of white and ivory. Another of the smaller paintings, Untitled, No. (7), 2011 (24” X 36”) hovers on the edge of being a seascape. It may or may not be construed as a scene -- horizontal swaths of blue, white, orange and yellow with the hint of a sailboat in the distance. It’s immaterial whether or not Zamani deliberately intends to lean towards abstraction. These rich, lustrous works resonate for the quality of the oil paint itself, and the clarity of the compositions. More than an inventory of shapes, line and brushstrokes, it’s clear this artist understands and embraces the medium, applying it with fluent technique – and without gratuitous flourishes.

HK Zamani, Untitled, No. (10), 2011
Courtesy of the artist and CB1 Gallery

HK Zamani, Untitled, No. (14), 2011
Courtesy of the artist and CB1 Gallery

HK Zamani, Untitled, No. (23), 2010
Courtesy of the artist and CB1 Gallery

Megan Abrahams

Megan Abrahams is a Los Angeles-based writer and artist. The managing editor of Fabrik Magazine, she is also a contributing art critic for Art Ltd., Fabrik, ArtPulse and Whitehot magazines. Megan attended art school in Canada and France. She is currently writing her first novel and working on a new series of paintings. 

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