The New Year begins at threewalls with a SOLO exhibition by Chicago-based artist, Armita Raafat. The first exhibitor in our newly expanded and renovated gallery, Raafat’s installation subtly transforms the 'pristine' gallery, drawing on the wall with mirror, paint, plaster, cardboard, papier mache and cloth to sculpt a crumbling architecture from Middle Eastern structures, patterns and motifs.
Referencing Islamic and Persian architecture, Raafat applies ornament in a state of ruin, often to the perimeter of the site, with patterns spreading, dripping and crumbling from corner to floor. For this exhibition, Raafat specifically refers to Muqarnas (moo-raan-naas), an element developed simultaneously (and apparently independently) in 10th Century North Eastern Iran and Central North Africa. Unlike other elements, Muqarnas has no intrinsic limits, with no finite unit of composition it is therefore changeable and expansive, leaving the builder “free” to use the Muqarnas at the discretion of their design.
Although Raafat’s current work speaks to her personal experience – growing up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, as well as the current political strife in both her homeland and the Middle East in general – it also acts as a powerful and universal metaphor for cultural ruin. With the gallery acting as diorama, architecture and ornament, heroics and beauty, are pushed and clinging to the margins, creating a spectacular tension in Raafat’s subtle staging as what is at once glorious and precious, is re-created, re-obliterated, re-revealed and re-destroyed.
Armita Raafat was a 2009 recipient of the Swing Space Residency with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York. She has previously exhibited at the Sullivan Galleries at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Ah! Decadence exhibition and with 12 x 12 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. She was featured in Portrait of an Artist in NewCity in 2009. Raafat received her MFA in Painting and Drawing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.