Inspired by the use of stacked perspective in Persian miniature painting and her experiences growing up and living in Iran (where personal freedom remains severely constrained) compared to her life today in America, Arghavan Khosravi's clever, three-dimensional artworks offer a sense of feeling trapped between two worlds.
Her latest series, In Between Places, goes further to reveal her thoughts and feelings but also hints at our collective experience of distance and dislocation during the global pandemic, often isolated at home during quarantine. Her paradoxical scenes are rendered on fractured surfaces that have been layered to create visual depth – they almost give the impression of a theatrical set and a feeling of a "not-quite-real" world built on false appearances. It's a recurring visual theme that mirrors the ruptures in Khosravi's own life as she lives in the United States, separated from her family in Iran.
On show at New York's Rachel Uffner Gallery this month through to 5 June, the artworks feature ornate Persian floral motifs that suggest heavenly gardens behind closed doors, but it's unclear whether these spaces "represent the possibilities for respite afforded by private life or the image of a utopian paradise promised by religious fundamentalism," as the gallery puts it.
Geometric in their character, a central rectangular column containing elements of a female figure appears in most paintings, but instead of showing an entire woman, Khosravi focuses on closely cropped portions of a face or neck, for example, or a hand's gesture. This emphasis paired with a more vivid, highly saturated colour palette that is new to Khosravi's work, recalls the Pop influence of painters such as Tom Wesselmann and Martial Raysse.
Also prominent is a rich symbolic language throughout. "The red threads that appeared as signifiers of patriarchal repression and imposed power in her earlier paintings have evolved into the black links of a ball and chain," adds the gallery. "These chains take multiple forms as shackles and latches, which are unlocked in some cases and not in others. In some works, such as The Key (2021), shackles placed prominently on an open book indicate censorship, which is common in Iran. A large trompe l'oeil key dangles in the painting's foreground, appearing both as a symbol of liberation and Khosravi's invitation for viewers to decode her paintings' visual puzzles."
Arghavan Khosravi earned an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design after completing the studio art program at Brandeis University. She previously earned a BFA in Graphic Design from Tehran Azad University and an MFA in Illustration from the University of Tehran. She has exhibited around the world and today lives in New Jersey and works in New York as a member artist of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts. Discover more at arghavankhosravi.com.