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.