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The “popcorn” ceiling (a textured mixture, typically of paint and drywall mud) in my childhood bedroom seemed unduly harsh, particularly at close range (from a bunk bed, with love). Jagged and uneasy to the touch, it seemed aesthetically pointless; I angrily fantasized about sanding it into oblivion whenever my adolescent head skidded groggily along it. Amir Nikravan might’ve had the same fantasy, giving rise to the stucco-like textures of his sculpture at Various Small Fires. Each construction alternates line and curve—based around a proportional grid—and textured interior with smooth exterior. There’s an ordinary iterativity to the show—aesthetics agitating the quotidian by reframing and re-hueing it.
The press release suggests headier, less provincial concerns, in a bevy of art world lexical esoterica: “complicating,” “alterity,” “subverted,” “normative syntaxes,” ad nauseum. Which is a shame, since Nikravan’s sculptures are imminently approachable, quite possible to read as an oblique comment on class, as much as on the frustrating omnipresence of Western modernism.
Whatever the intent, the seemingly airbrushed plaster and acrylic surfaces in Nikravan’s forms give off a whiff of the residential, counterbalanced by smooth, evenly toned surfaces on the reverse and edges. Those pieces that we have the opportunity to view in the round play a coy game of reversal, particularly Inversion Therapy (all works 2018), which toggles between a section and a diagram of what looks to be a simplified intestinal tract. Extended Action’s orange, curving form slides around it’s dark plastic pedestal like a bored teenage suburbanite on a sectional sofa.
Stucco indexes to a specific L.A. condition of cheaply made, “dingbat” residential units—class, as it relates to real estate. Stucco can of course be beautiful—pride despite humble circumstance and all that. Nikravan grapples with modernism which, like it’s handmaiden, capitalism, is a pesky, and unusually absorbent ghost; not easily dispelled by color or texture, it easily transubstantiates difference into novelty. After all, stucco is one example of modernism in its purest sense—replicable, common, shorn of adornment—but the kind left behind by the material snobbery of the contemporary art world, formed under the unmistakable and ubiquitous sign of wealth.
Amir Nikravan: World of Interiors runs March 3–April 28, 2018 at Various Small Fires (812 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038).