Consequence IV, 2016, Water color on paper with video projection installed in black boxes, 13 x 24 incaption
Thursday, February 18, 6 - 8 pm
568 West 25th Street, New York
‘The cold earth slept below/ Above the cold sky shone;
And all around/ The breath of night like death did flow’
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Leila Heller Gallery is pleased to present a collaborative exhibition between filmmaker Shoja Azari and painter Shahram Karimi, on view from February 18th to March 26th, 2016. The Cold Earth Sleeps Below features eleven of the artists’ unique, hallmark video-paintings, portraying and exploring humanity’s relation to the natural landscape. The exhibition takes its title from the work of English poet Percy Shelley; the artists seek to revisit, in their own words, the contemporary relevance of “the paradoxical notion of beauty and the sublime that the Romantics fought to free from the clutch of utilitarian materialism, egoism, and the rational mind of the 18th century”.
Beauty betrays; yet its seduction remains as compelling as its deception. In the hypnotic, shimmering collaborations between Shoja Azari and Shahram Karimi, a deep suspicion of the beautiful reveals disaster below the surface of the idyllic: a terrible sublime. For each composition, the painted canvas, layered with elements of relief texture and written text, mirrors the video image; according to the artists, their cooperative “artistic intervention attempts at thwarting or enhancing the perception of the neglected.”
Taking as its point of departure the idiom of landscape as a medium as much as a genre in visual culture—a social hieroglyph mediating larger social values and literalizing the naturalization of societal conventions—The Cold Earth Sleeps Below dismantles the scaffolding of the beautiful. For the six large-scale tableaux in the installation in the main gallery—each animated by the palimpsest of a video projection—the artists have culled found images from the popular imagination of serene, natural landscapes: an aerial vision a cherry orchard, a soothing view though dark grove of trees, a scene of a field of flowers delicately rustling in the breeze. Dreamscape I-VI, compelling their formal, synthetic beauty, evince the anthropological gaze of the natural as harmonious, sedate, governable: gestalt tableaux which suppress as much as they espouse.