LALEH KHORRAMIAN, I Without End, 2008, video still. Courtesy Salon 94 Freemans, New York.

I Without End

Laleh Khorramian

Salon 94 Freemans
USA Iran

Serendipity lies at the heart of Laleh Khorramian’s varied practice, which includes painting, drawing and animating. The Tehran-born artist first paints in oils and ink on glass and then carefully transfers the image to non-porous paper to create monoprints. The outcomes are unpredictable, and the resulting abstractions have densely textured and mottled surfaces that suggest surrealistic, underground worlds. After identifying pictorially suggestive passages of paint and adding details by hand, Khorramian uses the prints as settings and raw materials for her animated odysseys. In “I Without End,” her second solo show at Salon 94 Freemans, Khorramian continued to mine the potential of her signature technique while fruitfully, fearlessly and patiently allowing accidental occurrence to guide her.

Some Comments On Empty And Full (2008), a six-foot-tall relief collaged together from monoprints, extends Khorramian’s images into space. With a palette of blacks, browns and ochres, its vertical orientation and amassed craggy rock formations suggest landscapes encountered in both Chinese ink painting and Persian miniatures. Embedded within the cavernous networks, scratched-in details look like prehistoric paintings, while occasional opaque patches filled with illegible scribbles resemble the graffiti one encounters in a city’s subterranean spaces.

A comparable equipoise between chance and control guides the exhibition’s centerpiece. The three-channel video I Without End (2008) is the third of five planned stop-motion animations, each structured around the primal elements of earth, air, fire, water and ether. In the video, Khorramian stages a series of beautifully lit erotic encounters between pairs of human figures cut out of orange peels, their fluid contours and natural curl recalling the mannered figuration of Persian miniatures. The peels’ surface texture evokes skin, while the simple androgynous figures allow these intimate moments to be read as both universal and mythic. The scenes unfold in a dollhouse interior of weathered walls punctuated with radiant stained glass, a romantic refuge floating beyond reality, history and time.

Accompanied by a low drone that suggests space flight, the video opens with abstracted close-ups that resemble a glowing sun or a molten lava flow. The images set the mood; less the frisson of adolescent passion than the slow, deep burn of mature love. Somewhat paradoxically, it is the peels’ gradual decay that animates the figures. They curl towards and cradle each other, embracing tenderly but awkwardly, with movements that are measured but unexpected. Arching their backs they thrust against each other only to whither away, as ecstasy eventually leads to a desiccated death. Khorramian’s startling film pulses with the sort of melancholic eroticism described by French archivist-philosopher Georges Bataille and the encounters captured embody the many nuances of la petite mort.

Khorramian’s earlier videos followed their named protagonists on epic, open-ended adventures. In contrast, I Without End, as its first-person title suggests, is a self-contained soliloquy, an existential meditation on the textures of intimacy and the transience of life and love.