September 8 - October 21
Opening 8 September, 6-9pm
In Pooneh Maghazehe’s work, we see various sets of twins, both split and duplicated. Halved bodies remain in concert, doubled visages lead parallel lives. They are a complicated family. However, her form of twinning is not biological, but more akin to a kind of historical and psychological orthopedics - doubling, cutting, and salvaging without predetermined destinies. Twins caused anxiety for both ancient and pre-modern societies and were often explained through polarities of wonder or horror. They became the bearers of dichotomous creation, as well as instillers of ambiguity, and the guardians of fragile humans, as if they were extra-ordinary. Perhaps the most famous historical set of twins are Castor and Pollux, half-twin brothers of myth, immortalized in the constellation Gemini as well as through various sculptures, paintings, and drawings. Altogether, they describe a mythography and symbology that connects them with sailors, horses, and war. The brothers came to help those in need, or in dire straits. Their association with horses can often be seen in them riding horses, or simply as horses themselves - noble and victorious.
Maghazehe’s horses are not calm and victorious like Castor and Pollux, they are heaving, frothy, and hissing. They are duplicates - cast from the same mold, but then changed and remade, becoming like the stories they tell: conflicted. Like Gothic grotesques, Maghazehe’s animals are charged with expressive excess, but their symbolic presence is nearly inverted. Animals became conduits for various traits associated with their better and worse selves. Lambs go up, goats go down. Doves go up, gulls go down. While apes, monkeys, and baboons have a more complicated history - one that marches closer to the rhythm of the Enlightenment. Maghazehe uses animals to oppose the nature we artificially gave them, the essences we invented for them and then naturalized.
Maghazehe’s questions appear in her materials. Twins and grotesques serve as possible avenues for understanding a body that does not and cannot need divine permission. These bodies are asking the questions of how we find worldly permission to be ourselves against ourselves, how we wrestle with the multiplicity of gained and sloughed off versions of ourselves. The goat, once associated with the demonic, appears beatific in Maghazehe’s hands. Its gaze, amidst the sculpture’s material provocations, is without fear, without pain - content. Her baboons are split open, like an ancient obelisk just discovered to be hollow, untouched and perfectly velveteen. Her gulls are warring with themselves, cut along variously torquing axes, distributing sculptural weight along the lines of implied psychological heft. Their shrieking faces are contained in the suede-like colors, like an antacid for excessive form. Each body, split, or mirrored, or doubled, all seem to be in the complicated act of discovery.
Without a divinely plotted path, each figure must understand itself to be something headed towards nothing, sometimes battling with the nothings of the everyday, and the cuts, measures and motions of their forms aim to hold this something and nothing together.
Ajay Kurian is an artist and writer. He lives and works in Brooklyn. He is represented by 47 Canal in New York and Sies+Höke in Germany.
Pooneh Maghazehe is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York. She earned an MFA from Columbia University and MS in Interior Architecture from Pratt Institute. She has exhibited works and collaborative performances nationally and internationally, including ZKM Center for Art, Beijing 798 Biennale, DePaul University Museum, ICA Philadelphia, and ICA Portland. Recent group exhibitions include Stepsister Gallery, Marinaro, Columbus Property Management and Hot Mud Fest with JAG Projects; forthcoming solo presentations include Resort Gallery in Baltimore and Brennan & Griffen in NYC. She teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art, and is the founder of LM//PM Productions LLC.