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What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week, Will Heinrich, The New York Times

December 5, 2018

Tala Madani's painting “The Shadow,” from 2018.CreditTala Madani, via 303 Gallery, New York

Tala Madani's painting “The Shadow,” from 2018.CreditTala Madani, via 303 Gallery, New York
 

Tala Madani

Through Dec. 15. 303 Gallery, 555 West 21st Street, Manhattan; 212-255-1121; 303gallery.com.

 

The Iranian-American painter Tala Madani has a knack for satire. Some of it will sound a little broad: The compilation of short animations that anchors her show “Corner Projections” at 303 Gallery features a giant disembodied penis, pink and translucent as a jellyfish, that beats a crowd to death, and a troupe of naked men roaming an alley on all fours to a soundtrack of mewling cats. But she isn’t using provocative imagery to score easy points. She’s using it to cut deeply into complex subjects like masculinity, power and desire.

 

A suite of dark, nearly black and white canvases, in which a crawling baby casts an outsize shadow and men in dark theaters use binocular-like devices to project their own fantasies, expertly balance subject matter against form. In them, Ms. Madani reflects on the way we look at the world and one another.

 

The piece I’m still thinking about is a seven-minute segment of the compilation reel called “Mr. Time.” The opening shot, of a swarthy man riding endlessly up and down a shopping mall escalator bank, exemplifies the artist’s instinct for evocative but nonspecific metaphor: He’s a neurotic, he’s a computer program, he embodies animal persistence. He’s minding his own business, in short, until a gang of baldheaded white men appears and throws him down the escalator. Their glee turns to dismay as he’s ever more injured — but they don’t stop throwing, and he doesn’t stop reascending, even after he’s been ripped into bloody pieces.

 

It’s not hard to think of political situations or international catastrophes the piece could be about, but its genius is that it applies so aptly to so many. WILL HEINRICH