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BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN | While the Iranian-born and New York-based Shirin Neshat has focused on issues of gender, identity, and politics in Muslim countries for years, she now turns her attention to an investigation of American culture.
In this exhibition — “Dreamers”— she explores the burdened and complex life of an Iranian living in the United States during today’s tumultuous climate. By presenting both a new film entitled “Roja” as well as a new series of photographs, Neshat invites her audience to confront the ambivalence of living across two cultures, which between them are rife with friction.
Over time, Neshat has developed a unique visual language that manifests as a poetically abstracted epic, often utilizing recurring dreams, memories, and desires. In “Roja,” we find her inspired by the surrealist films of Man Ray and Maya Deren, among others, as she embarks on a subject with obvious personal overtones. The film traces an Iranian woman’s disquieting attempts to connect with American culture while reconciling her identification with her home country.
The film is further accompanied by photographs that give Neshat’s well-known series of portraits, covered with calligraphy derived from religious texts and poetry, a new twist. In these works, Neshat focuses on white men and women from the United States. By obscuring and blurring their features, she transforms these portraits into a metaphor for the mystification that enforces cultural boundaries and prohibits sympathetic attachments across race, class, and nationality.
May 19–June 17 at Gladstone Gallery (515 W. 24th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). Gallery hours: Tues.–Sat., 10am-6pm. Call 212-206-9300 or visit gladstonegallery.com.