Painter of Schmucks

Tala Madani, Smiley Clean, 2015. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Purchase with funds provided by Anousheh and Ali Razi

For the first time since the pandemic began, MOCA's two buildings are fully open with regular hours. MOCA Geffen now has four exhibitions, of which the largest is "Tala Madani: Biscuits."  The Tehran-born artist, featured in the Hammer's "Made in L.A. 2014," gets a 15-year retrospective.

Madani is a painter of schmucks. Her quintessential subjects are sad-sack male losers, and/or actual penises or phallic symbols. It's a man's man's man's world, and everybody's up to no good. Madani's sexual/scatological concerns have parallels to Paul McCarthy or Mike Kelley, but she is fundamentally a painter, one whose subtlety transcends the naïf-cartoony idiom.

Tala Madani, A Banana is Speaking, 2017. Private collection
Tala Madani, Sea Dick, 2016. Private collection
Tala Madani, Abstract Pussy, 2013. Promised gift of George Freeman to Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Tala Madani, Key Words (Christmas Lights), 2022, and Key Words (Candy Shop), 2013. Courtesy of the artist
An ongoing series of works were created by sending schoolbook illustrations to a Chinese painting mill for reproduction, with Madani adding interventions.
Shit Mom installation view. The video is Shit Mom Animation, 2021

Two rooms represent poles of contemporary motherhood: Shit Mom (2021) and a group of new paintings with the collective identifier Cloud Mommies (2022). 

As organized chronologically by Rebecca Lowery and Ali Subotnick, with Paula Kroll, Madani's work is assured from the outset. Like all good mid-career shows, it leaves you wondering what's next. "Tala Madani: Biscuits" runs through Feb. 19, 2023.

Tala Madani, Cloud Mommy (Sleep), 2022. Courtesy of the artist


Anonymous said…
Madani's Christmas Lights and Candy Shop look ready-made for the Lucas Museum. But with darker undertones than in a Norman Rockwell. I guess sly or wink-nod subversion - particularly when at least somewhat subtle - is now a given in today's cultural world. Then again, artists have long liked doing variations of a Freudian slip.

Anonymous said…
“Sea Dick” is in a private collection. To think that some rich person has “Sea Dick” hanging in their home somewhere.
Anonymous said…
^^^What matters more sometimes is the perceived value and not the subject matter.

Her work shot up in price between her 2015 (first) and 2019 (second) exhibition at David Kordansky.

Always unfortunate when that happens because I think it can stunt the development of the work, locking the artist into a certain style.

Not a fan of her work. In any case, whoever owns "Sea Dick" made a profitable investment. Given the prices and the works available, the best time to buy was in 2016 and 2017.

--- J. Garcin