Amir H. Fallah

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The Third Line | The Collected | December 11th, 2013- January 23rd 2014

The Third Line welcomes back Amir H. Fallah with his third solo show in Dubai, The Collected, which investigates the complex relationship between patronage and art making, collector and artist, and the dynamics of the creative process in today’s art world. All the paintings in the show are pre-sold, commissioned portraits, where the artist exercised complete artistic authority to manipulate the image according to his own interpretation. The process involved initial collaboration with the commissioner, a performative component in the staging, and the element of surprise in the reveal of the works to the patrons for the first time during the show preview. 

In his new body of work, Amir explores classical and renaissance portraiture traditions employing a critical approach by subverting the mechanisms of control. Art history boasts of countless examples of commissioned portraiture, where images conceal the patron’s physical identities and instead feature material possessions as a sign of stature and wealth, and solely the patron determined the final depiction of their identity. In this case, the artist exerts control over aesthetic and conceptual decisions, with the process relying heavily on trust and a powerful agreement to hand over creative authority back to the artist. The paintings will be revealed to the patrons for the first time at the exhibition opening.

Amir visited collectors’ residences in Dubai more than a year ago and staged the portraits by gathering various material belongings from within their homes as markers of their identity, particularly gravitating toward those mundane objects that seem loaded with sentimental meaning - a worn afghan, an idiosyncratic plant, a figurine or running shoes. After carefully assembling the composition through collaborative efforts with the subject, he photographed the setting and used the image as a starting point. The works further changed in his studio when transferred onto the canvas and evolved through his personal interventions and stylized interpretation, telling the patrons’ personal histories through his eyes.

The surfaces are layered with collage and paint and the imagery often reflects the artist’s own cultural alliances: references to Persian miniatures may appear in the form of careful borders along the edge of a canvas and blankets may start to resemble the long veils associated with Eastern cultures. Images are embellished and details introduced or omitted based on extemporaneous decisions, and the initial source photographs are completely obscured. Sometimes, subjects appear in dramatically neoclassical poses, lounging across a wooden table or perched on a pedestal. Faces and other obvious markers are concealed and the only identification is through personal elements that surround them. For example The Triangle In The Shattered Square includes a skateboard, a bottle of spray paint, a digital camera, and geometrical patterns picked from ceramic tiles at the collectors residence.

Amir approaches his current paintings as an investigative and analytical historian. Aside from unraveling a different perspective to art historical portraiture traditions and the dynamics of modern day art collection and art making, he also reflects upon concerns of identity and representation that are central to his practice.

 

About Amir H. Fallah

Amir H. Fallah was born in Tehran, Iran in 1979. He received his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2001 and his MFA from University of California Los Angeles in 2005. His artistic practice encompasses painting, drawing and sculpture – all reflecting Fallah's characteristic style of merging collage with complex patterning, which is decidedly ornate but also addresses primary painterly concerns. Often working with photographs of sets or scenes created by him, he uses the initial composition as a starting point, working in layers of manual and digital manipulation towards a final image. Throughout his body of work, Fallah uses elements of chance and his graphic aesthetic to guide him through the process. His works address a nexus of idiosyncratic topics, culling influences from personal narrative, art history, pop culture and imagined experiences alike.

Fallah has exhibited extensively in solo shows both in the United States and in the Middle East. He  was featured in several international group exhibitions in venues including University Art Museum at California State University Long Beach; 9th Sharjah Biennial, Sharjah, UAE; Lancaster Museum Of Art And History, Lancaster, CA, USA; and Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC, USA. His works are housed in prominent collections such as The Salsali Private Museum Collection.

 

About The Third Line

The Third Line is a Dubai based art gallery that represents contemporary Middle Eastern artists locally, regionally and internationally. The Third Line also hosts non-profit, alternative programs to increase interest and dialogue in the region. The Third Line also publishes books by associated artists from the region. Books published to date include Presence by photographer Lamya Gargash (2008), In Absentia by Tarek Al-Ghoussein (2009), Cosmic Geometry, an extensive monograph on Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Karen Marta (2011), and most recently the self-titled treatise Huda Lutfi about the artist’s Cairo based practice.