Tala Madani was born in Tehran, Iran in 1981. She skewers stereotypes in her sharply satirical paintings that evoke clashes of culture: men and women, the rational and the absurd, Western and non-Western. Madani’s figurative paintings often feature a riotous cast of middle-aged men, balding and stocky, whose libidinal mayhem wreaks havoc on any situation the artist thrusts them into. Acerbic caricatures of both machismo and a childlike desire for mischief, the physical comedy at work in Madani’s paintings is anchored by intense pleasures, pathos, and a pervasive sense of violence.
The history of painting itself is also a target in Madani’s witty works, with spread-eagled characters resembling Color Field paintings, or characters wearing stripes appearing to be both prisoners and Minimalist abstractions. Painted with quick gestures, where oozing paint often doubles as bodily fluids, food, and stains, Madani’s compositions are derived from sketchbooks where countless studies provide the skeleton for her speedy execution. Madani’s pictures are also transformed into stop-motion animations where the artist photographs a freshly created scene over time—wet paint still glistening—resulting in stories of small calamities that are once hilarious, tender, and ghoulish.
In the following preview from the Los Angeles hour of Season 8 of Art in the Twenty-First Century, Madani reflects on her background and how it informs the ways her work is perceived. “I think there is a proclivity for people to read into the figures as from Iran,” says the Tehran-born artist, who moved to Oregon as a teenager, of her paintings. “If I was a Mexican artist, the audience would read them as Mexican men.”
Season 8 of Art in the Twenty-First Century premieres Friday, September 16, 2016 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Los Angeles airs Friday, September 23 at 9 p.m.