Chunks of plaster melt and drip as they climb and curl their way into corners and onto the floor of the gallery
By Whitney Stoepel
This month, Armita Raafat has a solo show at threewalls gallery in the West Loop. Raafat was born in Chicago but returned to her parents’ homeland, Iran, in the 80s, during the Iran-Iraq War. This experience, as well as her cultural background, informed the concepts in her work.
In May 2009, Raafat’s work was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in their UBS 12 x12 gallery. Just before that show, she had returned from Iran where had been studying the architecture of mosques and Persian tapestries. From this, Raafat began to utilize the architectural technique of muqarnas, which was developed in the middle of the tenth century in northeastern Iran.
Incorporating the architecture of muqarnas with Persian textiles, plaster, mirrors, paint, and papier mache, Raafat creates pieces that make the viewer question if the art is half-done or perhaps falling apart before their eyes.
The walls at threewalls were transformed into the installation itself, with Raafat’s electric blue honeycomb-looking arrangements clinging to the wall, appearing as if they are amidst destruction. Chunks of plaster melt and drip as they climb and curl their way into corners and onto the floor of the gallery. Broken mirror pieces peek out from the decaying mess to reflect warped images of the viewer as well as giving the impression there might be another existence on the other side.
The use of the materials from Iran combined with the atrophied and beautifully complex structures themselves truly conveys the idea of conflict as well as a tribute to her homeland. The piece is reminiscent of footage one might see at an archeological dig, something intriguing and beautiful hidden under layers of dirt. Raafat’s work, revealing of Iran’s history of war, is enmeshed with its cultural history and the artist’s identity.
The exhibition closes February 13, 2010 and there is an artist talk on February 4 at 6pm at threewalls, 119 N. Peoria #2d.