Opening this Thursday at the RHYS Gallery in Boston will be an exhibition of several new works by Los Angeles-based artist Amir H. Fallah. On view in the gallery will be one of Fallah’s signature fort/terrarium installations which will contain live cacti and music by Minor Threat. Fallah, who is also the founder and creative director of Beautiful/Decay Magazine, has exhibited internationally with the Third Line Gallery in Dubai and participated in the recent Rogue Wave exhibition at the L.A. Louver Gallery. DailyServing recently spoke with Fallah about his upcoming exhibition, new directions in his work and his pick of L.A. artists, read the full interview below.
DS: Amir, you have an upcoming exhibition with the RHYS Gallery in Boston. Tell me a little about what you plan to present in this show.
AF: The show will consist of 10-11 paintings and one large fort/terrarium sculpture. The paintings will be a continuation of a body of work that incorporates imaginary fort like structures in surreal landscapes.
I’ve recently been researching gardeners that play music to their plants. These gardeners create soundtracks for their plants that influence the way they grow and mature. It’s very similar to how teenagers are influenced by music. The music that I listened to in my early teens affected me in a very profound way. I still feel the impact that the early dc punk and hardcore bands had on me. I thought it might be interesting to create a fort terrarium in the gallery that houses various cacti and succulents. There will be a continuous loop of one of my all time favorite DC punk bands, Minor Threat playing during the duration of the show. I may end up killing the plants and annoying the hell out of the gallery sitters but it should be an interesting experiment.
DS: When did you first begin to show with RHYS Gallery and what drew you to work with this space?
AF: The head director of Rhys Gallery, Colin Rhys first saw my work at the Gulf Art Fair in Dubai at the Third Line Gallery Booth. He liked the work and contacted me once he was back in the states. I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Colin’s program but after speaking to him and asking a few friends in Boston about the space it became clear that it was a good fit. Not only do I enjoy the artists Colin works with but I also respect and admire Colin’s enthusiasm, energy and willingness to put on ambitious shows. So many gallery dealers are content with working within the established parameters of what you should and shouldn’t do. Colin was open to all of my ideas and has worked with me to bring my ideas to fruition. An artist couldn’t ask for better from a gallery.
DS: Recently, you have expanded your artistic vocabulary to include photography and sculptural installations in addition to your paintings and drawings. What new ideas do these mediums allow you to express?
AF: Even though I primarily consider myself a painter, I have always dabbled with other mediums in the past. About a year ago I decided to try a few ideas in photography and sculpture. It was a great move for me as it allowed me to expand my vocabulary and work out ideas that would never be possible with painting. It also is a great way to keep things fresh in the studio. If I get frustrated with painting I will start working on a sculpture or a photograph.
DS: Images of forts and cacti are found in many of your works. Can you tell me the story behind these images, and how they relate to each other and your previous work?
AF: It’s always a challenge to summarize the content of my work. I am always sampling from my personal experiences. I think of the work as a zine with various articles on a wide array of subject matter. If you read one or two articles you wouldn’t understand what the zine is about but after reading the entire issue cover to cover you start understanding the different sides of the author and start drawing parallels between content that once seemed disparate. With that said my work is about: Child hood memories, punk rock, falling in love, the similarities between cacti and love, first kisses, Persian miniature painting, psychedelic imagery, skid row tents, Al-Qaida bunkers, collaboration, refugee camps, gardening, space, camping, Morrissey, publications, decoration, and Minor Threat.
DS: You have sited drawing much of your inspiration from Persian miniature paintings, often referencing spatial elements found in those works. Do those pieces play a certain cultural role for you as an Iranian as well as being aesthetically interesting?
AF: As I mentioned my work has always been about my personal experiences and memories. I see the Persian miniature painting references to just be an extension of my various interests. I obviously connect with them because they are culturally relevant to me but I also am drawn to them from a graphic designers point of view. To me they are ancient page layouts where grid systems, page layouts, and typography come together with art.
DS: You’re currently represented by The Third Line Gallery in Dubai, UAE. Have you experienced any cultural differences in viewer response or engagement when exhibiting there? Does the interpretation of your work seem to change?
AF: Dubai is a great city. When I first went there I wasn’t sure what to expect… I’ve had some great experiences there. There are not a lot of galleries in that region at the moment, but I think that in the next 5 years we will see a big interest in not only Dubai but in the Middle East as a whole. Galleries like The Third Line are successful because they are continually educating their growing audience with catalogs for each show, artist talks, film screenings and so on. They are building a solid foundation for the Dubai art community. The interpretation of the work changes not so much from region to region but from person to person. Once I had a couple come up to me in Dubai and tell me that one of my paintings reminded them of Mecca. I thought it was a bizarre reference as I don’t have any interest in Religion. I wrote off their comment and thought that everyone in the middle east must see the world through Islam tinted glasses. A few months later I was showing the work from Dubai to a American friend and he also saw the reference to Mecca.
|Third Line Gallery|
DS: How does the traditional concept of the zine, something you have worked with for years now, impact, shape or inspire your current works?
AF: I think my attraction to zine making is very similar to my need to create artwork. Zines are very personal and are all about the creator. The content is very personal and usually revolves around the creator’s interest. In a way that’s how I make my artwork. I feel like I can only make artwork about my personal experience and interests.
DS: How have your interests as a young teenager continued to influence your work as both an artist, and as the founder/creative director for the art, culture and design publication Beautiful/Decay?
AF: I can’t seem to escape my teenage years. They continually come up in my work time and time again. Between the ages of 14-18 I experienced and learned many of the values, ethics, and beliefs that I still hold true. Those years have informed not only my artwork but also the way I approach my creative direction of Beautiful/Decay magazine and all other business and art projects that I take on. When I was 14 everything was so exciting, new, and promising. I have worked very hard to keep that level of excitement both in my personal life and in my art.
AF: I don’t think that there is a particular trend; it’s more of an attitude. On the east coast (mainly NYC) there is immediacy in not only the artwork but in day-to-day life. You won’t find that kind of work in LA mainly because of the laid back culture. Now when I say laid back I don’t mean lazy. I still get up every morning at 7am to paint before heading to my office at Beautiful/Decay but I do it in a calm and collected fashion. I feel that if I had to take a train to my office and walk for miles on end every day I wouldn’t have the patience to work on both the magazine and my art. I like to think that I have a “laid back urgency” to the way I live my life. I will get up every day at the crack of dawn to paint but I must take a leisurely lunch. In a way it’s the best of both worlds.
DS: What are some of the advancements or potentially new directions that you’d like to explore through your work?
AF: I’ve been thinking about what direction I see my work going in and one subject that I’m extremely interested in is drug use and drug culture. This subject is a challenge, considering that I have never taken any drugs. However I’ve always been around subcultures that are deeply rooted in drugs. I’d like to explore psychedelic and drug references in my work, mainly from a teenager’s point of view. It should be an interesting departure from the current work while carrying on many of the teenage themes that are in my current body of work.
DS: Who are some of the artists in L.A. that you feel are making significant and challenging work today?
AF: I have hundreds of favorites but I’m continually inspired by Kevin Appel, Tom LaDuke, Cathie Opie, Laura Owens, Don Suggs, Lari Pittman, Evan Holloway, Mindy Shapiro, Jonas Wood, Liz Craft, Wendell Gladstone, Robbie Conal, Ivan Morley, Kaz Oshiro, and many others.