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Opening January 21, 2006 at Loyola Marymount University, Laband Gallery, West Side

by Suvan Geer

Amir Fallah’s large paintings of dark anonymous rooms look as if they are carpeted with a kind of chewed up, plastic confetti. Often the bright, colorful bits and fragmented shapes appear like flood-churned refuse that gaily speckles the floor, or moves like party flotsam floating on dark water that rubs gently against the baseboards of strangely empty rooms. It makes for an oddly cheery tide of uncertain destruction because the confetti bits appear so alive and active in contrast to the strict geometric order of the disturbingly empty walls around them.

It is that contrast between order and disorder, with the disorder coming off as the only thing still vibrant and engaging in these interior spaces, that makes images like “As Merry As The Days Were Long” so fascinating. Here the littered floor is a thick, writhing mass of bright blue, red and pink abstract shapes that seem to be crowding toward us, as if shoved forward in rejection by a pristine blank wall painted the sickly color of canned pea soup. As we visually poke through all the stray forms like beachcombers after a mammoth storm-party, we are impressed by their dense diversity, yet wonder at the sterile rigidity of the surrounding walls that appear so untouched and untouchable.

Perhaps it is that untouchable quality and the pervading darkness of the rooms that makes Fallah’s interior spaces also strongly suggest deep space. His deeply colored geometric shaped walls and floors suck up light like black holes, while much of the bright litter glows softly against the darkness like faint stars. By suggesting that something cosmic can be found within very human spaces, Fallah constructs an ongoing narrative about cycling dualities played out in mythic terms.

Amir Fallah, “Who is Rich and Who is
Poor,” 2005, acrylic on panel, 72 x 48”.

Amir Fallah, “I Am Right and You Are Wrong,”
2005, acrylic on panel, 48 x 72”.

Amir Fallah, “What a Terrible Mess,”
2005, acrylic on panel, 48 x 72”.

Hillary Baker, “What Have I Done?,”
2005, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20”.

Hillary Baker, “Battlement,”
2005, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 56”.

Hillary Baker, “Stellae With Two Moons,”
2005, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24”.
A different kind of abstracted narrative fills Hilary Baker’s large acrylic on canvas paintings. While the flat drawing style and shallow, colorful landscapes recall childhood Road Runner cartoons, her images of disembodied, stacked and swiveling eyeballs, simplified brick walls, battlement towers and ladders all suggest the private symbolism and angst of Philip Guston. It’s an unsettling pairing.

Baker’s visual style bathes the weirdness and disquiet of staring ocular orbs and dripping circular moons or weeping cloud forms in a patina of bright, ornamental design and humor. That incongruity makes for a decidedly ambiguous cloaking device in what can be seen as the stylistic equivalent of either emotional repression or psychological denial.

We cannot be certain from her canvases if the signals she so starkly diagrams for a world of danger, vigilance and frustrated communication are real or imagined. Because we are unsure of the work’s mixed visual signals we tread cautiously from one canvas to another, looking for confirmation that everything is indeed safe or unsafe, or that the pervading sense of impending doom is really just the product of a childish imagination. The artist consistently refuses a visual resolution.

Baker captures, in these vaguely dreamlike landscapes of suspicious watchfulness and impenetrable barriers rendered in pleasant cartoon flatness and color, some of the powerful disorientation and mistrust sometimes created in literature by an unreliable narrator whom is eventually revealed to be mad or deluded. With her carefully crafted disjunction of symbolic representation she is able not only to evoke our own sense of unease with things that don’t add up, but the more internally conflicted emotional territory of those who are afraid that what they really have to fear may, at base, be their own paranoia.