For the past two years, Los Angeles-based artist Amir Fallah has constructed intricate, deeply autobiographical imagery by mining the archives of various universities, libraries, and public collections. The resulting paintings act as a living document of his experiences. Now, he turns to his own archive to produce works that exist solely in the digital realm. They function as an archeological survey, with new works cannibalizing the old.
Fallah ties together vignettes of appropriated imagery, using fine art, children’s books, and the visual and sublim inal messaging of consumer advertising. The lines between traditional painting and digital production are blurred beyond recognition, dealing with themes of climate change, immigration, xenophobia and social justice. In his latest series of NFTs for SupeRare, Fallah lifts past work not only into the present, but into the future tense. Ani mating previously static elements of Fallah’s work allows deeper complexities of the paintings to be revealed over time, with layer upon layer of various characters, graphics, signs and symbols peeling themselves away, primed for discovery and extended dialogue.
They are transformed into newer statements, while maintaining the nuanced, rich histories belonging to Fallah’s subjects. From patterns on their clothing, to personal keepsakes, to individual experiences, all of these things belonging to his subjects are brought into the fold of these reimagined works.
Fallah’s visual signature has coalesced into the “veiled portrait”: a way in which he disguises the identity of his sit ter, while including intimate details of their environment, their relationships, and their memories. Set against these portraits are elements (they can be physical or purely symbolic) of Fallah’s own backstory, as a young Iranian immigrant who found a safe space in skateboarding and graphic arts culture.
Two Sides is an amalgamation of over a dozen existing works in Fallah’s studio. Its composition is centred by a Janus-like, two-headed figure obscured by a decorative veil bearing the face of a Chinese dragon. Below it, a painted vase of relative origin. The gestures of the two pairs of hands resemble that of Buddha, as one gives, one receives. Surrounding the central figure are various images, including that of Humpty Dumpty (taken from a children’s book), a cartoon face in black and white, a graphic of a hand grasping money (pointing up towards the centre) taken from a 1900’s Polish matchbox, and an orb in the upper left corner representative of the light and dark side of the moon. Subtle movement can be detected in several areas of the composition, which can only be achieved in digital format: Humpty Dumpty seems to dance about, the moon-orb turns on its axis, a white square appears to wax and wane towards the two-headed being, and the cartoon face grows and recedes in its mono chrome gradient.
Overall, the piece is a literal and symbolic commentary on political polarization. Two heads on one figure suggest that although they are inseparable, both sides are unable to see, hear or talk to the other in any meaningful way. The shifting white square and the cartoon face recall the fickle nature of wealth and poverty being taken away from the political engine that drives the world’s nations. Humpty Dumpty continues his carefree dance, edging dangerously close to a precipice that could spell his end; an apt metaphor for the fate of those blindly revelling in their own rationalised, cloistered beliefs and values. Fallah is careful not to ascribe his content to a named or par ticular ideology, rather he chooses to integrate diverse, international symbols to communicate his frustration with an inertia that plagues every citizen, aristocrat, and politician, alike.
About the Artist
Amir Fallah was born in Tehran, Iran in 1979. Following the Islamic Revolution, his family emigrated to the United States. Fallah received his BFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2002 and his MFA in Painting from the University of California (Los Angeles) in 2005. Solo exhibitions of Fallah’s work have been presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Tucson, AZ), the San Diego Art Institute (California), the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Overland Park, KS) and the South Dakota Art Museum at South Dakota State Uni versity (Brookings, SD). Group exhibitions featuring Fallah’s work have been presented at venues including the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), the 2009 Sharjah Biennial, the Orlando Museum of Art (Orlando, FL), The National Arts Club (New York), the Wetherspoon Art Museum (Greensboro, NC), and the Los Angeles Design Center. He is the recipient of the 2020 COLA Individual Artist Fellowship and Marciano Art Foundation Artadia Grant, the 2015 Painters & Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and the 2002-2005 Jacob Javits Fellowship. Fal lah’s work has appeared in international media outlets including Artforum, Forbes, Artillery Magazine, L.A. Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia, Vogue Paris, Juxtapoz, Hyperallergic and The New York Times. Selected permanent collections of his work include the McAvoy Foundation for the Arts (San Francisco), the Jorge M. Pérez Collection (Miami), the Microsoft Collection (Washington State), the Museum of Art and History (Lancaster, CA), the SMART Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Overland Park, KS). Fallah lives and works in Los Angeles.