December 6, 2012 - January 19, 2013
With an emphasis on breaking down the regional aesthetic notions associated with global contemporary art, the 14 artists featured in Nitin Mukul’s Fact/Fission at Aicon Gallery collectively reject the idea of fusion (too gimmicky, typically multicultural, and complacently tolerant) for fission (in the form of boundary-crossing interdisciplinary regeneration). The mixed media work in this show addresses fission in various ways, but mostly through idealized forms of destruction, collapse, and isolation.
Even the more approachable pieces, like seemingly neat and clean paper cuts under Plexiglas by Seher Naveed, reveal a sense of messiness. The exterior-interior settings mirror the artist’s experience of construction in her hometown of Mangla Damn, which led to widespread displacement. At first her imagined rooms look ideal, dollhouse-like and perfect. However, like memory, the images are skewed -- floating staircases end for no reason, chairs are placed on improbably angled floors. The outside and in are all mixed up -- are those electric fans set in the shrubbery?
Likewise, Yamini Nayar’s composite prints represent destroyed and Frankensteined (or fissioned, if you will) interiors. Within each of her photographs, the whole is abstract even if the pieces aren’t -- bits of broken structure and ruined floor are set against glittering ore and confusing but quotidian paraphernalia. The suggestion seems to be a wrongly imagined architectural memory, appearing in terraced layers from which the whole picture equals general inaccuracy. But even if the details are deliberately disorienting, the point is clear: whatever happened in these spaces, it wasn’t anything good
You could, of course, just represent this region of the world’s problems closer to how they actually transpire, and other work does so with more direct verve and violence. John Jurayj’s Untitled (Marine Barracks 1983 with Orange Mirror, #3) shows a mess of a ruined structure, the photograph overladen and riddled with a realistic semblance of burn holes, backed by mirrored Plexiglas. It’s a subdued, disturbing take on the ongoing conflict in Lebanon; the mirrors allude to the stainless steel commonly found in psychiatric and penal institutions. The recreated bullet holes refer to, one can assume, the soldiers from those ruined barracks, both shooting and being shot.
Also overtly suggesting violence are two pieces of ruined furniture by Pooneh Maghazehe. Matthew Fischer’s Awning, a suspended, destroyed recliner, hangs against layers of gold leaf and glittering paint slapped against the gallery wall. There’s no comfort in the sparkle and sheen; instead, it looks like a prettified explosion. The furniture, stripped to pieces and its own guts, suggests its vulnerability to any kind of substantial upheaval. Suggesting a lower level of disaster is Eleni’s Jesus Juice Bowl, comprised of Eleni’s (no last name given) former sectional. This wreck at least rests on the floor where it belongs, reflecting more statically existent problems, while its equally destroyed companion piece in the other room hangs ominously. But you’d be hard pressed to find a way to comfortably use either piece of furniture.
The most formally touching work in Fact/Fission are the paintings. In particular, Abir Karmakar’s Scent IV, showing an empty, unmade bed that could be anywhere and appears to only have been slept in on one side, elicits a weird sadness. The dim room and rumpled sheets are intimate but lonely; this now empty setting could have only ever held one person. Meanwhile, Kanishka Raja’s panoramic paintings depict wacky, Technicolor cityscapes that are wholly unlivable. In Switzerland Prep, the setting is turned on its side and disappears into the sunset. The result of Raja’s paintings, like the show itself, is a visual mix of private and public domains that leaves viewers with a better understanding of the tumult, beauty, and frustration in the areas of the world where the work is from.
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Susannah Edelbaum is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. She writes about art, commerce, and crime.