Iraqi-Australian painter Toba Khedoori has lived in Los Angeles since 1990, so she’s certainly due for the major museum retrospective of her work now on display at LACMA after a number of recurring gallery shows in town at Regen Projects. The current exhibition (which runs through March 19, 2017, before moving on to the Perez Art Museum Miami from April to September) begins with several of the wall-sized mixed-media pieces on paper that established her reputation in the mid-‘90s and culminates in two rooms of smaller oil-on-canvas paintings that Khedoori has created more recently.
The huge pieces in the LACMA show’s first room mesmerize us with impeccably drafted rows of windows, doors, wall bricks, auditorium chairs and chain link fence wiring. These and other depicted architectural elements are optically and thematically isolated from any hint of human presence or influence by vast expanses of surrounding white negative space on their paper support surfaces, space that extends even further onto the backing museum walls. Geometric patterns implied in these early works are fleshed out in other forms through the exhibition’s middle rooms in residential interiors and outdoor paths.
Even when Khedoori breaks out into bolder colors and more open spaces in her newer paintings, the sense of utter isolation persists. There certainly aren’t any people lingering in the vicinity of her bright orange fireplaces or walking across the tiled floor or through the thicket of branches she depicts. The blackness of the surrounding space in two paintings of an indeterminate hole in the universe is every bit as enveloping as, and even more obscuring than, the white space that surrounds the early works. A billowy gray cloudscape is apocalyptically impenetrable to our inquiring gaze, and a range of mountaintops indicates no more trace of life.
Though always representative in their recognizable themes, Khedoori’s paintings on view at LACMA emulate abstraction in their cool resistance to our imagined approach.
Toba Khedoori: Toba Khedoori
September 25, 2016–March 19, 2017
LACMA5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036