Tala Madani: It was as if the shadows were lit up
9 November 2021 – 28 February 2022
Longlati Foundation, Shanghai
Longlati Foundation is pleased to announce “It was as if the shadows were lit up”, an exhibition dedicated to Tala Madani (b. 1981, Tehran, Iran) and her energetic, expressive painting series “Corner Projections”. For the inauguration of its expansive space in the Bund, Shanghai, Longlati Foundation focuses on presenting trailblazing women and female-identifying artists whose compelling work challenges the status quo of the art-world establishment. As the encouraging results of the Foundation’s continuing Collection and Patronage Program, this selection of 4 cinematic diptychs proclaims how Madani is charting a new direction for figurative canvases.
Quoted from Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo, a novel about living in exile and its adventurous aspects, the title of the exhibition “It was as if the shadows were lit up” fully contributes to the formation of a particular metaphor that suggests the artist’s personal history and artistic approach. Born and raised in the years of turmoil after the Iranian Revolution (1978–79), Madani went through the socio-political marginalization of women and the divided states of feminism during childhood. She moved to Oregon in her teens with her family, and then completed her undergraduate studies in political science and visual arts. Becoming a painter whose brushworks are of conceptual potency, gestural simplicity and emotional immediacy, she has been integrated into the multi-cultural heritage. The artist now constantly challenges our understanding of the global landscape, as well as the power structures within.
Meanwhile, “It was as if the shadows were lit up” forges a dialectical description of “Corner Projections” with a satirical style. The paintings variously depict projectors which, directed from one canvas into the other, create screens of light against which events can unfold. This body of work portrays several male figures that wield handheld projectors, creating illuminated rectangles that expose and conceal their activities. The sense of voyeurism is rampant as the men stare across at one another from singular vantage points; this is emphasized further by the juxtaposition of two men conversing. The casual violence and mayhem that used to make up Madani’s subject matter are sublimated, though it is still clear that what is being projected is not really light, but some irrational desire. By characterizing the primary force of light in the set of ritualized circumstances, Madani makes her skewering of the vulnerabilities, transgression and pleasure in the male-dominated reality.
In response to Madani’s light that points both outward and inward at human instinct, the works are deliberately installed in certain darkness, while the audience is invited to take a flashlight when entering the exhibition space, and view the works by turning it on. Thus the idea of “It was as if the shadows were lit up” is performed as a collective agenda, in which one’s identity is articulated as a communal project.
Special thanks to Pilar Corrias Gallery for its support of this exhibition.
Tala Madani. Photo by Jersey Walz. Courtesy of the artist and Pilar Corrias Gallery
Tala Madani’s (b. 1981, Tehran; based in Los Angeles) work brings together various modes of critique about gender, particularly masculine and feminine stereotypes, as well as questioning westernized idealistic notions of childhood, family and the art historical canon. Her work is inflected with a peevish sense of humour and brings to bear basic human feelings and emotions, such as anxiety, anger, fear, isolation, paranoia, envy and lust. Madani received her MFA from Yale University School of Art in 2006.
Upcoming solo shows include “Tala Madani”, MoCA, Los Angeles (2022). Recent solo shows include: “Chalk Mark”, Pilar Corrias, London (2021); “Skid Mark”, Pilar Corrias, London (2021); SSSStart Research Centre, Start Museum, Shanghai (2020); “Mam Project 027: Tala Madani”, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2019); “Tala Madani”, Vienna Secession, Vienna (2019); “Oven Light”, Portikus, Frankfurt (2019); Lewben Art Foundation Playlist for Mo Museum “Lewben Playlist for Mo”, MO Museum, Vilnius (2018); “Tala Madani”, La Panacée, Montpellier (2017); “First Light”, organised in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (curated by Henriette Huldisch and Kelly Shindler), MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (2016); “Tala Madani”, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville (2014); “Tala Madani”, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2014); “Rip Image”, Moderna Museet Malmö & Stockholm (2013); “The Jinn”, Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam (2011).
Selected group exhibitions include: “Above Us Only Sky!”, Nitja Senter for Samtidskunst, Lillestrøm (2021); “Anticorps”, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2020); “Radical Figures: Painting in the New MillenniumP”, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2020); “(X) AFantasy”, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2017); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); “Made Masculine”, Museum of Art at the University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire (2017); National Gallery of Victoria Triennial, Melbourne (2017); “The Great Acceleration: Art in the Anthropocene”, Taipei Biennial (curated by Nicholas Bourriaud), Taipei (2014); “Made in L.A. 2014”, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2014); “Where are we Now?”, 5th Marrakech Biennale, Marrakech (2014); “PLAY! Recapturing the Radical Imagination”, Göteborg Biennial, Göteborg (2013); “The Future Generation Art Prize@Venice 2013”, Palazzo Contarini Polignac, Venice (2013); “New works 13.1”, Artpace, San Antonio (2013); “Speech Matters”, Danish Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venice (2011); “The Great New York”, MoMA PS1, New York (2010); 4th Tirana International Contemporary Art Biennial, Tirana (2009); “The Generational Triennial: Younger than Jesus”, New Museum, New York (2009).
Madani was awarded the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize (2020), the Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting (2013), the De Volkskrant Art Award (2012), shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize, Pinchuk Art Centre (2012), the Van den Berch van Heemstede Stichting Fellowship (2008), and the Kees Verwey Fellowship (2007). She was artist-in-residence at the British School of Rome (2010), and The Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam (2007).