Formal Relations

2 July - 19 August 2015 Taymour Grahne Gallery

Taymour Grahne Gallery is pleased to present Formal Relations, a group exhibition curated by Kamrooz Aram and Murtaza Vali, featuring work by Abdolreza AminlariDoug AshfordFayçal BaghricheEva BerendesAla EbtekarMichelle GrabnerYamini Nayar and Zarina.


Presenting an international and intergenerational selection of artists, Formal Relationsbrings together various abstract works that trouble the conventional opposition between form and content. Challenging the autonomy often ascribed to abstract form, these works establish relations to broader social, political and historical realities and concerns through form. The artists in Formal Relations leverage abstraction’s interpretive openness and multiplicity to make the formal more receptive to the real, to discourses outside and beyond itself.  


Doug Ashford’s inkjet prints and paintings in tempera place abstraction in proximity to—and dialogue with—archival news photographs of personal tragedy and political collectivity. Through physical intimacy and a play with opacity and transparency, this encounter, between form and referent, is kept cordial rather than confrontational. Eva Berendes and Yamini Nayar both reference histories of Modernist architecture, deploying abstract form as content or subject matter rather than mere style. While the visible imprint of the wooden planks used to cast Berendes’s minimal plaster reliefs reveals process, recalling Brutalism’s predilection for cast concrete, Nayar’s photographs of process-driven structures cobbled together from found material and studio detritus, are succinct visualizations of instability or contingency as a phenomenon or condition—formal, visual, material and cultural.


Zarina expresses a comparable poetics of dislocation through a restrained minimalism, the simplicity and clarity of her forms conveying the affective weight of her transnational biography. Created through tedious and precise repetitive actions, Abdolreza Aminlari’s sublime abstractions in gold thread on paper and Michelle Grabner’s delicate Color-aid paper weavings evoke Minimalist painting but also index the long unacknowledged contributions of domestic labor through material and methodology. While Fayçal Baghriche’s emergency blanket cast out of gold similarly recalls gridded, gilded canvases by Yves Klein and Agnes Martin, it infuses this sublime abstract form with references to very real tragedies and conflicts and raises, through an artistic Midas touch, a modest utilitarian object up to the status of high art.

Made by carefully excising simple geometric forms—rectangles and triangles that correspond to blocks of text—from pages of old Persian manuscripts, Ala Ebtekar’s works present the negative space of the frame or margin as their formal cores, privileging support structure over surface, context over text. In all these works, form exceeds itself through its relations to the world.  


About the Curators


Kamrooz Aram is an artist who lives and works in Brooklyn. His work has been exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions and has been widely featured and reviewed in numerous international publications. Aram’s practice occasionally extends beyond the studio to include writing, organizing exhibitions and teaching part-time at Parsons, The New School for Design. 


Murtaza Vali is a critic and curator who lives and works between Brooklyn and Sharjah. A recipient of a 2011 Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, his work has appeared in various international art publications and he has penned essays for commercial galleries and non-profit institutions around the world. His past curatorial projects include: Accented (Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, 2015); Geometries of Difference: New Approaches to Ornament and Abstraction (Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz, 2015); PTSD: Shahpour Pouyan (Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Dubai, 2014); extra|ordinary: The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2013 (Art Dubai, 2013); Brute Ornament (Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2012); and Accented (BRIC Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn, 2010). An occasional pedagogue, Vali is a Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute and a tutor for Campus Art Dubai.