May 16, 2016 - MIT List Visual Arts Center - Tala Madani: First Light / Villa Design Group: Tragedy Machine
May 16, 2016

MIT List Visual Arts Center

Tala Madani, Projections, 2015. Oil on linen, 80 x 98 1/4 x 1 3/8 inches. Courtesy the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Pilar Corrias Gallery, London. Photo: Josh White.

Tala Madani: First Light
Villa Design Group: Tragedy Machine
May 20–July 17, 2016

Opening: May 19, 6–8pm

listart.mit.edu
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Tala Madani: First Light
Villa Design Group: Tragedy Machine
May 20–July 17, 2016

Opening: May 19, 6–8pm

listart.mit.edu
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube

Tala Madani: First Light
Hayden Gallery
In her paintings, drawings, and animations, Tala Madani combines gestural brushwork with figurative and often disturbing subject matter, brazenly satirizing conventional notions of masculinity. Presented against backdrops of either dark or pastel fields of color, caricatured men are shown in self-inflicted situations that are variously funny, macabre, or humiliating. Consummately referencing Old Master, Abstract Expressionist, and Color Field painting, Madani roundly debunks the masculine hubris associated with many of her art-historical predecessors.

Cinematic light, or illumination, is a recurring motif throughout the works in this exhibition. The depiction of projected light connects Madani’s work to film and its use of light and dark to present images, as well as historical representations of Christian iconography utilizing chiaroscuro, such as the Crucifixion and the Pietà. Her short animations are also in conversation with such diverse traditions as animated cartoons and painted film.

Throughout her work, Madani recasts the male figure in scenarios that mock virility and redistribute the dynamics of power. Her bevy of interchangeable males is infantile, feminized, and bedraggled. In making reference to the visual language and improbable physics of cartoons, Madani’s work is continuously thrown into comic relief. Ultimately, these gendered figures are far more ambiguous and anarchic than they initially appear, presenting a broader consideration of human cruelty, fantasy, authority, desire, and shame.

Tala Madani (b. 1981, Tehran) lives and works in Los Angeles. Her solo exhibitions include Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2014); and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2013). Selected group exhibitions include the 2014 Taipei Biennial; Made in L.A. 2014, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the 5th Marrakech Biennale, Marrakech (2014); Greater New York, MoMA PS1, New York (2010); and The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2009).

Tala Madani: First Light is organized in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and is curated by Henriette Huldisch, Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center, and Kelly Shindler, Associate Curator, CAM St. Louis. The accompanying publication is generously supported by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation; Pilar Corrias Gallery, London; and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

Villa Design Group: Tragedy Machine
Reference Gallery
Villa Design Group creates sculptures, videos, and scripted performances inspired by the formal languages of architecture, theater, and decorative arts. Founded in 2011, the London-based collective—comprised of Than Hussein Clark, James Connick, and William Joys—seeks to create a “theater of design” inhabited by “queer objects.” These are objects embedded in speculative narratives that ask what it might mean for a thing, not a person, to be queer today. 

Villa Design Group: Tragedy Machine, the group’s first US museum exhibition, features new sculptural works and a four-act theatrical production that imagines an existence in which an automated machine holds the ability to compose tragic scripts for performance. Tragedy Machine is centered on three architecturally scaled installations. Theater or Cruelty (Cometh, Cometh, Cometh) is a modular stage conceived, in part, as the workers’ cantina at a defunct factory that produced the tragedy machine. Miriam Ruth as Architect (Exterior Façade. Deltress Holding) is a 25-foot shop front showcasing the fictional factory’s prototypes alongside carvings of tragic muses. On the opposite side of the gallery, the hand-painted screen Bait and Glitch (Cancancancancancancan Smash) depicts an infamous scene from Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film Stonewall.

Flanking the stage, two sculptural costumes of tubular metal and millinery felt, Invalid Suit (The Danish Girl Ascending) and Invalid Suit (The Savage Theory of Grace), incorporate video screens displaying digitally-animated selections from British actor Eddie Redmayne’s films, turning the human actor into something of a tragic machine. The exhibition’s capstone is For all Mediocre Students the Olive Tree Bears the Fruits of Competition, a chandelier of steel and blown glass that hangs from the ceiling above the stage.

Tragedy Machine also serves as the premiere of This Is It or Dawn at Bar Bazuhka (2016), the group’s most recent theatrical production. An adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s 1939 play The Iceman Cometh, it transposes O’Neill’s script from New York’s Greenwich Village to a gay nightclub on the Greek Island of Skiathos. The performance takes place May 21 at 4pm. Seating is limited and registration is required. More information here.

Villa Design Group is Than Hussein Clark, James Connick, and William Joys, who met at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2011.

Villa Design Group: Tragedy Machine is curated by Alise Upitis, Assistant Curator, Public Art and Exhibitions, MIT List Visual Arts Center.

Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Cynthia & John Reed and Rick & Terry Stone.

General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Council for the Arts at MIT, the Office of the Associate Provost at MIT, the MIT School of Architecture + Planning, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and many generous individual donors. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.

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