7 March 2022–1 May 2022

'La La Land'

Naeemeh Kazemi

Leila Heller Gallery

Starts 7 March 2022

Ends 1 May 2022

Venue Leila Heller Gallery

Warehouse 86/87


Predominately a sculptor, Naeemeh Kazemi began painting in 2020 when the lockdown started since she could not get to her studio. She worked on these magical canvases in her one bedroom apartment in Iran, which helped her escape the confinement of quarantine and transported her to fantastical places.

Living in Iran, Kazemi has had to take creative approaches to her meanings through symbols, so as to not get in trouble with the Iranian government. Her themes of environmental and virus anxiety, feminism, and humanity are disguised in her enchanting paintings through tokens and motifs of the natural world, classical paintings, and quotidian objects.

In her most recent “La La Land” series, she depicts a world that is intertwined yet fragmented. It is as if familiar pieces float strangely in space. In her complex yet highly composed paintings, Kazemi ponders the questions “Could the whole history of the world be a mere misunderstanding?” and “Is it possible that man, with all his discoveries, developments, culture, religion, and global wisdom is just lingering on only to the outward of life?”

This series reflects Kazemi’s feelings and anxieties towards the world, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic quarantine instated since March 2020. She says, “I’m incredibly scared because I know we will soon annihilate this enlivening life-giving planet. A planet that soon gets a shell from skulls, bones, and dead machines. No one can do anything for her. We lost the game!” Kazemi creates an oasis sheltered from these fears in this series. A “La La Land,” clearly fictitious, but serving as a safe haven from the uncertain world.

Her work aims to reflect her constant state of questioning, anxiety, and interrogation with herself. She says “tense dreamy moments occur, which rushes blood to my cheeks.” The viewer can see these feelings depicted in the flourishing flora and fauna and bright, enchanting colors. But then, “a moment later, silent, unsure, tired, and depressed.” These juxtaposed feelings are sensed in the canvas through the lingering portraits- eyes hidden, hands floating, and plants tangled in a web.

Kazemi’s most recent work is “The Birth of Christ.” The scene depicts a carnival birthday scene, complete with confetti, banners, and birthday hats. People and animals pray to Christ, His body shown in three different places on the canvas, in an attempt to gain a piece of His humanity and to benefit from His kindness and generosity. Motifs of skulls and gas-masks allude to what Kazemi foresees as the fate of humanity- an eventual shell of a world. Juxtaposed with the theme of birth, new life, and heads of animals, the artist gives life to her chaotic thoughts and opposing feelings.

Ultimately, through these symbols, themes, and meanings, Kazemi is questioning life itself. For Kazemi, her works are not set in a final reality. She explores the system of meanings and understands that it is constantly changing and new realities are born every day. While first brought upon by the uncertainties of social and personal health by the pandemic, her investigation of finding meaning in life remains true for past, present, and future generations.