Hayv Kahraman: Project Series 52

Hayv Kahraman, Barricade 1
Hayv Kahraman, Barricade 1, 2018, Oil on linen, 50 x 78 in. Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.

Claremont — The Pomona College Museum of Art presents the exhibition “Hayv Kahraman: Project Series 52” on view from Sep. 4 to Dec. 22, 2018. A public reception will take place from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday, September 15. Kahraman’s public performance, Gendering Memories of Iraq: A Collective Performance, will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 11 on the Pomona College campus.

Los Angeles-based artist Hayv Kahraman creates exquisite figurative paintings on large linen panels that depict a singular woman with pale skin and black hair. Frequently presented in a group of identical female figures, the woman often appears nude or clad in shawls decorated with Islamic geometric patterns. 

Kahraman’s paintings take on themes of violence and involuntary migration as she processes her childhood in the war-torn country of Iraq and her adolescence in Sweden as a refugee. While Kahraman’s work is intertwined with the histories of the Iran-Iraq and Gulf Wars, it is also invested in the idea of feminine collectivity, identity, belonging and diasporic cultural memory. 

The artist borrows from a multiplicity of styles, including Persian miniatures, Japanese illustrations, and Italian Renaissance paintings in the composition of the woman’s poses and appearance, creating a discourse between Eastern “otherness” and Western concepts of beauty. Absorbing Renaissance aesthetic values while rejecting hegemonic ideals, Kahraman models the bodies in her paintings on representations of her own body. She photographs herself in poses, assuming multiple personas, that she then sketches in paint onto panels. 

In her most recent work, Kahraman has incorporated a weaving technique drawn from the Iraqi hand-woven fans called mahaffa—one of her few family heirlooms. She cuts into the canvases and weaves in fragments of other shredded paintings, creating newly “mended” representations of female bodies and “healed” memories of past trauma. 

The exhibition is curated by Rebecca McGrew and is accompanied by a publication designed by Kimberly Varella of Content Object. Contents include an introduction by McGrew, a new scholarly essay by Madina Tlostanova, poetry contributions by Sinan Antoon, and the artist’s never-before-published performance text. The book is distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. 

The exhibition “Hayv Kahraman” is the 52nd in the Pomona College Museum of Art’s Project Series, which presents Southern California artists in focused exhibitions. This exhibition is supported in part by the Pasadena Arts Alliance, Pasadena, CA. Additional support provided by Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; and The Third Line, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

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