Western Exhibitions will open its second solo show with Orkideh Torabi on Friday, September 13 with a public reception from 5 to 8pm. Torabi’s paintings depict caricatures of men, a gender which in many cultures will enjoy and benefit from social freedoms that women are forbidden or discouraged from engaging in.
Taking art historical cues from the Western Canon’s portrayal of the figure in landscape, Torabi’s men are seemingly oblivious to their coveted social freedom. Rendered with simple button-eyes, gnarled noses, and alien skin, her unabashedly humorous figures are stuck in an emasculated state of being. She banishes women from her paintings altogether, crafting scenes which offer an eerie parallel to daily life in Iran. Without women, the men are left to coddle their baby boys, care for each other at public baths, and engage in intimate conversations amongst themselves. In an interview with Chester Alamo-Costello for Comp Magazine, Torabi reflects on this expulsive decision: “Growing up, I gradually recognized how women do not benefit from the same opportunities as men in their everyday lives. Having consistently observed how many facets of society are established to favor men over women, I questioned how my life may differ if none of these boundaries existed.”
Torabi uses fabric dye on stretched cotton, a batik-like technique that has become her signature, to depict cartoonish contemporary men against vivid patterns. These patterns are influenced by Persian manuscripts and miniatures—small yet highly detailed illustrations that have been an integral part of Iranian culture since the 13th century. In the new series of paintings, Torabi moves these backgrounds into the foreground shapes of her men’s shirts, pants and blankets. Custom-designed, patterned wallpaper will be installed behind these paintings to further envelop the viewer in color and pattern. By juxtaposing her contemporary observations with such traditional imagery, Torabi makes explicit that the past and present become interwoven in the fabric(ated) world of her making.
Roberta Smith of The New York Times posted on Instagram that Torabi’s “work blends Persian painting with Hairy Who-like Nutt and Nilsson, fomenting optimism for the continuation of the reciprocal revitalizations of cultures.”
Orkideh Torabi received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016, after receiving her BA and MA from the University of Art in Tehran. Torabi’s solo and two-person shows include Western Exhibitions in Chicago, Horton Gallery in New York, Interface Gallery in Oakland and Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica. She currently lives and works in Chicago.
Recent press notices:
“At Horton Gallery/Western Exhibitions chez @newartdealers the Iranian artist Orkideh Torabi works in fabric dye on cotton fabric and likes to hang her work on patterned walls. She got her MFA at the SAIC and lives and works in Chicago. Her work blends Persian painting with Hairy Who’s like Nutt and Nilsson, fomenting optimism for the continuation of the reciprocal revitalizations of cultures. They simply won’t be kept apart.” – Roberta Smith, New York Times
“The most eye-catching painting display is in the shared booth of Horton Gallery and Western Exhibitions, with its ornate orange wallpaper pattern, which serves as a popping backdrop for Orkideh Torabi’s playful and attractive portraits.” – Benjamin Sutton, Hyperallergic
Orkideh Torabi received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016, and she received her MA and BA from The University of Art in Tehran. Torabi’s solo and two-person shows include Yes, Please & Thank You in Los Angeles, Western Exhibitions and Horton Gallery in New York City. Group shows include Andrew Rafacz Gallery and the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. She was selected for the 2017 Midwest issue of New American Paintings and has work in the Microsoft Art Collection in Redmond, WA. Torabi lives and works in Chicago. She is represented by Western Exhibitions, Chicago and Horton Gallery in Dallas.
Image: NADA New York 2018 Solo booth with artist-designed custom wallpaper, co-presented with Horton Gallery