When you go through the process of looking at a face and you meditate on it with pigments and brushes in hand, it is like living with the face. In a way, it becomes part of you.
Gagosian New York is pleased to present an exhibition of recent paintings by Y.Z. Kami.
Kami’s portraits of introspective subjects, often with eyes closed as though in meditation, project a broad and inviting spiritual presence. With his own photographs of family, friends and strangers as source material, he uses faces as vessels to convey an almost sacred and universal atmosphere of reflection. The matte surfaces of the canvases resemble fresco, while the closely cropped, centered compositions evoke El Fayûm portraits of ancient Egypt. Beginning with a primary paint layer in warm terra cotta, Kami renders these figures in a uniform sfumato that evokes a light tremor, imparting to the paintings a striking effect of movement. This sense of vitality may stem from our own associations with photographed subjects in motion, but it transcends the veracity of photographs. Kami does not aim to create photorealistic portrayals; rather, he seeks to make his subjects uncannily present in spirit.
Paintings depicting hands joined in prayer directly indicate Kami’s concerns, as a common action spanning across faiths. Similarly, a universal sense of spirituality is conveyed by White Dome paintings, characterized by a central white light that pours over countless rows of tiny white rectangles, hand-painted or stamped onto the canvases. New large-scale portraits zoom in on Kami’s chosen faces. A further softening of features is achieved in large areas of nebulous skin textures and hair tones. Each painting possesses a distinct sense of fluidity—between the various faiths and texts that constitute Kami’s philosophical influences; between representation and abstraction; and, most unexpectedly, between painted portrayals and energies present.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Robert Storr.
Y.Z. Kami was born in Tehran, Iran in 1956, and lives and works in New York. His work has been collected and exhibited by Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London, and many other institutions worldwide. Solo museum exhibitions have been presented at Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (2003); Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (2008); Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London (2008); and National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (2009–10). His work was included in the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007, curated by Robert Storr).
An exhibition at Gagosian, Paris, is raising funds to aid in the reconstruction of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris following the devastating fire of April 2019. Gagosian directors Serena Cattaneo Adorno and Jean-Olivier Després spoke to Jennifer Knox White about the generous response of artists and others, and what the restoration of this iconic structure means across the world.
Y.Z. Kami: Luminosities
Elena Geuna interviews the artist on the subjects of his childhood, his approach to portraiture, and the centrality of light in his practice.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019
The Summer 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Afrylic by Ellen Gallagher on its cover.
Y.Z. Kami: Behind the Vanishing Point
Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth-century mathematician and philosopher, served as a crucial inspiration for Y.Z. Kami’s newest body of work. Angela Brown examines Pascal’s ideas and their relevance to these portraits and Dome paintings.
Fire and Water
Y.Z. Kami and Peter Marino discuss the power of bronze, the current state of architecture, and the infinite.
During preparations for an exhibition in London, Y.Z. Kami met with Gagosian’s Alison McDonald to discuss the evolution of his work, technique, and his combination of influences.