For her second solo exhibition at Lombard-Freid Projects,
American-Iranian artist Tala Madani created candid paintings and videos of
Middle Eastern men, who blindly perform masochistic actions under the guise of
religious and national worship. Outlandish and comical, the works emanate goofy
machismo normally prevalent in an all-boys club. Rocky – whose character
epitomizes the masculine pride, strength, and determination – makes several
appearances in the form of a clumsy Middle Eastern man—only to be emasculated
in the impish contexts that Madani has positioned him (Hassan Meets Rocky and Rocky VI, both 2008).
Madani also conveys a strong homoerotic undercurrent to the
featured ritual and sporting activities. In the large painting Elastic Pink (2008), a pink bodysuit connects abstracted men who are kneeling in the
traditional Muslim prayer position, thus blending the figures’ head and behind
to create a sexually-charged environment. The depicted acts of humiliation and
self-mutilation all point to the masculine culture’s embrace of conformist
conduct, as it is motivated and dominated by violence employed in the service
of a higher cause.
*Images: Elastic Pink, 2008; Hassan Meets Rocky, 2008; Rocky Vi, 2008. All images courtesy Tala Madani and Lombard-Freid Projects.