The Third Line presents Fractures, Nicky Nodjoumi’s first solo exhibition at the gallery curated by Media Farzin for Bidoun. The show features Nicky’s work from the past two years, including large and small-scale oils on canvas, ink drawings, and a collection of archival source imagery and collages.
Nicky Nodjoumi is a figurative painter with an abstract sensibility. His paintings explore the emotional dynamics of contemporary politics. The brushwork is quick, loose, and expressive, though the compositions are carefully worked out well in advance. His protagonists are often men in suits — the uniform of contemporary authority — painted against spare backgrounds.
Nicky’s recent body of work focuses on breaks, ruptures, and the layering of objects and bodies. He uses found photographs to make collages that repeat the same image with small shifts in scale. A selection of his working sketches and collages, drawn from his archive of source material, is also on view. In the final work, bodies are crisscrossed by sometimes violent slicing and fractures — vivid traces of the social violence that has caught up with them.
The theater of politics, in Nicky’s work, is often an absurd space. His juxtapositions are both disturbing (atomic clouds, bombed out landscapes) and darkly humorous (giant apes, satanic wrestling). The artist captures the spectacular hypocrisy of political rituals and gestures in a sensory rather than narrative way. The space of the painting can be strongly theatrical, with high-contrast lighting, as well as props, masks, and harlequin patterns (the last two references to the Italian commedia dell’arte tradition.)
On the relationship between painting and politics, Nicky has said: “What I’m looking to express in my paintings are the relations of power. I find a situation and a composition that touches on the relations between people, objects, and spaces, on their embeddedness in power. And then I try to approximate it in painting.”
Brooklyn-based artist Nicky Nodjoumi was born in Kermanshah, Iran in 1942. Earning a Bachelor’s degree in art from Tehran University of Fine Arts before relocating to the United States in the late 1960s, Nodjoumi received his Master’s degree in Fine Arts from The City College of New York in 1974. Returning to Tehran to join the faculty of his alma mater, Nodjoumi joined his politically galvanized students in their criticism of the Shah’s regime, designing political posters inspired by the revolutionary spirit sweeping the country, only to be exiled once more in the aftermath of the revolution.
This political engagement has continued to the present day. His nuanced figurative paintings engage in political discourse with a light, satirical touch, layering his personal heritage and lived experiences in Iran and the United States into scenes that resonate beyond specific historical contexts or geographical boundaries. Nodjoumi’s works are conceived of as theatrical stages, where compositions of figures both serious and ridiculous, in the words of Phong Bui, “house meanings without irony, narratives without stories, humor without morality, above all creating a space that heightens the awareness of old and new history.” Serious in subject matter and witty in execution, these rich and diverse characters enliven Nodjoumi’s narratives and allude to collective experiences underpinned by sociopolitical struggles, articulating the full spectrum of feelings from aggression to victimhood.
Nicky Nodjoumi’s works are in several prominent institutional collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London, the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago, Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi and the National Museum of Cuba. In 2014, Nicky had a solo exhibition at the Cleveland Institute of Art titled The Accident.
The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, NYC.Nicky Nodjoumi, The Oaths of Infidels, 2017, oil on canvas, 243 x 304 cm