David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings and drawings by Los Angeles-based artist Toba Khedoori, on view at the gallery's 525 West 19th Street space. Khedoori joined David Zwirner in 1994 as one of its first artists, and this marks her sixth solo show with the gallery.
Khedoori is known for her precisely rendered, intricate works depicting familiar objects divorced from any background. For the past two decades she has created her own atlas of solitary spaces, windows, doors, train compartments, and horizon lines always devoid of a human presence. Usually drawn, and then painted, onto waxed paper of a monumental size, the otherwise empty compositions envelop the viewer's entire field of vision, but proportion appears autonomous from a real-life referent. The works appear at once fragile and monumental, flat and illusory.
The present exhibition includes a series of oils on canvas, a new development within the artist's practice that further breaks down the distinction between painting and drawing. Executed on a smaller scale, and at times filling out the entire surface, these works open up for a more intimate dialogue with their surroundings, onto which their own space seems to become projected. The support of the canvas lends new weight to the subject matter, while underscoring a dichotomy between the physicality of the former and the ethereal appearance of the latter.
The works in the exhibition depict ropes in various configurations along with subjects from the natural world–mountain ranges, tree branches, and rivers. A canvas with an abstract mosaic of small squares in varying shades of black and blue contrasts with the more figurative compositions, while at the same time emphasizing their own inherent abstraction. A river is distilled to an interwoven mesh of wavy lines and myriad branches overlap or are overlapped to create a sophisticated lattice in which it is difficult to maintain a distinct focus. In two paintings presenting aerial views of a mountain range, the tension between form and narrative, or abstraction and realism, extends into a question of difference and repetition: at a closer look, it emerges that they show the same view with the shadows inverted. A drawing depicting a large explosion evokes this tension both literally and conceptually, as the smoke captured by the soft pencil strokes appears at once decipherable and disappearing from view. The viewer's attention, in turn, is focused onto the exercise of looking.
Despite their technical and sometimes photo-realistic precision, Khedoori's works seem to present a virtual vocabulary, as if they were illustrations of thoughts. In a recent essay on her work, artist and writer Julien Bismuth notes that each of Khedoori's fragmentary subjects seems "disconnected from that which would make it complete. Imagine a language from which only a word had survived. What would this word sound like? Like a puzzle piece removed from its set and held up to the light, Toba Khedoori's works engage with a specific form of abstraction: abstraction not as 'freedom from representational qualities' but as 'the process of removing something.' In doing so, she remains bound to representational drawing, yet draws attention to its conventions by subtle yet deliberate acts of omission, remission, and subversion."¹
¹Julien Bismuth's essay "Toba Khedoori" (2012) will appear in a forthcoming edition of Annual Magazine.