Makan Negahban Approaches Painting Like a Song

Makan Negahban Approaches Painting Like a Song

Art wasn't initially the plan for queer Iranian American artist Makan Negahban. Having written and performed music for the better part of the past decade, it wasn't until recently that the self-taught artist made the transition into the visual medium, operating on the deceptively simple premise: “How would a painter make a song?”

Having shown at various solo and group shows around the US, Makan's forthcoming show, Collisions, is set to look at the artist's progression with two distinct bodies of early and newer work. Informed by a creative enthusiasm fostered by his parents who fled from the ultra-conservative Iranian Shah regime in the 1980s and his own diet of media such as films, music, literature, etc., Makan explores the intersections of these influences the ways the artist's instinctive curiosity manifests.

Positioned in stark contrast to one another, Makan's earlier work showcases the artist's origins with a series of mixed media portraits emphasizing bright colorful textiles in mundane snapshots of daily life. Featuring collage work, crackle paste and various paints, these slice of life glimpses into the individuals in the Makan's orbit come off as earnest expressions of gratitude as the artist finds his footing.

In comparison, Makan's newer work strays away from the intimate and banal for dark visceral emotion and nostalgic landscapes. Painted on raw un-stretched canvas, Makan eschews the intricate detail of his earlier work for more expressive groups of nondescript people in motion, including primitive scrawling reminiscent of cave art and abstract impressionistic forms emerging from a jet black void. From a nude body appearing to writhe in agony to a child pointing with wonder, Makan manages to capture the raw emotion in each tableau and catalyzes the kinetic energy contained within the painting.

As the show's name suggests, Collisions thrives on the juxtapositions of old and new, light and dark, mundane and fantastical, instinct and intent, galvanizing that tension to find meaning in the dichotomy. The works may encompass a variety of subjects but at the crux of it all lies the emotion, and Makan's innate curiosity.

Collisions will be on view at the world-renowned Bergamot Station with Lois Lambert Gallery in Los Angeles from September 10 to November 5.

Photography: Maya Fuhr


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Story by Andrew Nguyen / Photography by Diego Villagra Motta