MAZIN SAMI

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(1) ""Dear Van Gogh", mixed media on paper, 22 x 17", 1995.
(2) "Kaleidoscope", mixed media on paper, 22 x 17", 1995.
(3) "Reds", mixed media on paper, 22 x 17", 1995.
(4) "Detail of Wall", mixed media on wood panel, 75 x 75", 1995.

by Ray Zone

(L.A. Artcore, Downtown) Working with mixed media consisting primarily of paper scraps and oil paint on large wooden panels, Mazin Sami has created a series of resolutely abstract works distinguished by their intensely intuitive nature. Most consist of a field of horizontally oriented dots and smudges floating over a loosely smeared background of almost solid earth tones. Underneath the monochromatic brown and gray base or "ground" there is an occasional glimpse of patterned paper or textured board.

The painted panels are emphatically suggestive of nothing so much as musical notation. One could almost write a computer program whereby a horizontally moving scan of the images could translate the shapes, smears, colors and dots into a piece of music. The music produced would be something primitive. The earth tones in the background would produce wide bands of sound in the bass clef with little schematic variation throughout, and the regular procession of the floating dots would produce a simple but majestic series of punctuations in treble clef.

Not surprisingly, Sami listens to a lot of music while painting, mostly opera and classical. His art would also seem rooted in his cultural background, which stems from an ancient world in Iraq and Baghdad, where the physical landscape remains to this day predominantly earth colors. The tactility and density of his work suggests the Fertile Crescent and the inchoate thrust to articulation and the culture which was birthed there and passed down to the denizens of the modern world from earliest civilization. For a time, Sami studied art in Madrid, and the Spanish landscape with its sun-drenched flatness and Moorish factor is also hinted at in this work.

The layering of the background in Landscape I, with three primary accretions of color built up in vertical thrusts, suggests the tireless handiwork of archeology. The specific colors themselves seem to represent geological epochs separated by a gulf of centuries. Over this wide field of earth tones the horizontally smeared dots drift impudently as if unconcerned, blithely regarding the tectonic and catastrophic motion beneath them. A particular and minutely focused consciousness, almost vain, is conveyed by the small, indefinitely rendered dots juxtaposed over a milennial flood that is impassive and oblivious to anything but gigantic shifts of monumental land mass.

The vertical smearing of the background also serves as a temporal metaphor, the hovering dots supplying ticking movement above the grid. The tiny marks have an insouciance, juxtaposed over the wide and ponderous chronological backgrounds, that call the music of Mozart to mind. The flat backgrounds have a humorless nobility that goes on forever, and the flying dots are as evanescent as sixteenth notes.