Hossein Khosrojerdi, “Seeing and Not Seeing”

 

Hossein Khosrojerdi, “Seeing and Not Seeing”

Mommies, Mummies, M&Ms

 

Japan has created “robots with a heart” to keep the elderly company. Perhaps this is what inspired playwright Jordan Harrison to write “Marjorie Prime,” a play about memory, loss and love ‚Äì sort of, because what’s missing is the heart.

 

Marjorie (Lois Smith), whose mind and health are slipping away, is in an elegant but spare assisted care facility, where she and her visiting daughter Tess still tussle over little issues (a spoon of peanut butter for example).

 

But before Tess (Lisa Emery) appears onstage, Marjorie is speaking with a very young man about their marriage. No, they aren’t a couple, but he (Jeff Ward) is an artificial being —akaa “prime”— who is being imbued with Marjorie’s memories. He’s standing in for her dead husband Walter, and will share those memories with her when he’s keeping her company. She questions him, he questions her and some kind of reality is created.

 

Tess, whose key characteristic is her confrontational nature, and her impossibly patient husband Jon (Frank Wood), are in disagreement over Walter the prime. Jon tries to help Walter by filling in details of Marjorie’s life that the prime will later feed back to her. Tess is disturbed that this digital being is simulating the relationship between her parents, because her own childhood left her feeling abandoned after her brother Damien, the favorite child, committed suicide and killed their dog along with him.

 

And in fact, Marjorie’s memory no longer includes her son, though she clearly remembers Toni the dog, which becomes the vehicle that will revive the memory of Damien. That’s because after Damien killed himself, his suicide was never again discussed, effectively wiping out both the tragedy and all memory of his existence.

 

At this point we question the role that memory plays. Sometimes the things remembered aren’t true, so where does that leave us?

 

This is a very cerebral play, and while the performances themselves are fine, the piece itself feels cold and clinical, an odd juxtaposition in a play ostensibly questioning the role that emotion, love and memory play in our lives.

 

It’s challenging and original but that doesn’t mean it’s totally enjoyable. It is thought-provoking, but I’d prefer to feel a human connection that I think is missing here. “Marjorie Prime” is at the Mark Taper Forum through October 19th. Visitwww.centertheatregroup.orgfor tickets and times.

 

MUMMIES AS ART

The first-ever US solo exhibition of Iranian artist and expatriate, Hossein Khosrojerdi is now on view at the Tara Gallery in Santa Monica. Though not well known here, he was a political activist who, following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, was designated the official artist of the newly established Islamic Republic.

 

Growing increasingly disenchanted with the regime behind the religious revolution, he sought asylum and since 2009 has been living in self-imposed exile in London. As he told Los Angeles Times reporter Deborah Vankin, “My environment was too closed and I wanted to enter a more open society.” He told Vankin he had been active in the Green Movement and feared trouble if he stayed.

 

A Tehran-born and educated artist, Khosrojerdi’s career spans three decades. His work encompasses abstract, surreal and symbolic styles. Of particular note is his use of mummies in his paintings.

 

According to the gallery’s materials, they represent a sort of self-preservation. Veiled all over, the mummies are non-gender, non-religious, and non-race specific making objective representations of all peopledepicting no particular time, place or identity.

One striking image titled “Panjarah,” a digital painting on canvas, portrays a mummy on a chair, legs crossed, leaning forward, arms crossed over knees, head looking down as if in thought or perhaps despair, sitting alongside a long, lone window in a wall filled with rust-burnished stains. Or is it blood?

Hossein Khosrojerdi, “Panjara”

 

“Seeing and Not Seeing” haunts as mummy figures, embedded in a tablet filled with hieroglyphic-style markings, attempt to push out of the flat surface. Five figures assume different hand positions that convey different emotions: tightly gripped, over forehead, covering eyes, leaning on a shoulder, and smacking the head, as they stand side by side with one another.

 

Examples of Khosrojerdi’s abstract works are also on view. Proceeds from sales support the non-profit American Foundation for Contemporary Iranian Art. Visit the Tara Gallery at1202 Montana Avenue, Suite B or atwww.taragallery.org.

 

M&MS

 

When was the last time you looked closely at your toast? Really closely? Carole Bayer Sager has done just that and shares her second series of large, hyper-real paintings of everyday foods and candy products at the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot Station.

 

Opening night was celebrity studded for this iconic, Academy and Grammy Award-winning pop songwriter turned painter. Among the attendees were Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and long-time Hollywood couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, as well as a who’s who of the music and film industries.

 

Sager depicts extreme close ups of things like M&Ms, chocolate kisses, grilled cheese sandwiches, and images of shredded labels and snack food packaging that explode into space like parade confetti. The first run of paintings, which also were shown at Turner, sold out.

 

As you approach these paintings, from a distance they look very photographic, but up close they dissolve into intricate, individual abstract textures, shapes and forms, like the pulled and torn cheese, the peanut M&M that stands like a classic still life on a reflective surface against a dark background, and the irregular air pockets of a piece of toasted bread.

 

Don’t bring an appetite or you might just get the munchies after leaving this exhibition. New Works: Paintings by Carole Bayer Sager are on view at William Turner Gallery through November 8th, call (310) 453-0909 or visitwww.williamturnergallery.comfor hours.

 

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also reviewed theatre forLAOpeningNights.com.

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