What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

January 30, 2020

Shirin Neshat
I Will Greet the Sun Again
The Broad
October 19, 2019 - February 16, 2020

Shirin Neshat

I Will Greet the Sun Again is an impressive, comprehensive exhibition featuring more than 230 photographic and video works, from 1993-2019, by Shirin Neshat. Neshat is best known for black and white portraits of women covered by hand painted Farsi texts, and for single and multi-channel videos that explore topics of exile, identity and displacement. In the exhibition at The Broad, the gallery is divided into discrete spaces containing either photographic images, some presented salon style, or video projections. To fully experience the exhibition requires significant time as Neshat's videos are narrative in form and are best viewed from beginning to end. Although many have relatively short durations between ten and fifteen minutes, they are rich works that require ample time for digesting.

Included in the exhibition are images from Neshat's Women of Allah series (1993-1997) in which black and white photographs of nameless veiled women are superimposed with the words of poets and writers in Farsi. While the decorative patterns of the writing partially obscures the subjects' faces, it simultaneously gives a voice to those who are otherwise silenced. The spiral of red and black ink that overlays the veiled woman in I Am Its Secret, (1993) is both beautiful and haunting. It is a surprise that guns feature prominently in these images, as Iranian women are not often depicted with weapons. Neshat includes the guns as symbols of both power and protection.

In many of Neshat's videos, men and woman are filmed separately and brought together as two-channel projections. This is most clearly evidenced in Rapture (1999) a thirteen minute, two-channel video installation. A work about gender and the sexual politics of everyday life. Neshat emphasizes the traditional roles of men and women in Islamic societies and allows viewers to witness the negative attitudes toward women and the limitations placed upon them.

While Neshat works in both color and black and white, it is the contrast between lights and darks within the black and white pieces— both photographs and videos— that give her work their power. Stripped of color, blue skies and water, sand-toned buildings and deserts, become images about conflict and contrasts. Neshat explores both formal and conceptual relationships in her work and is interested in the representation of black and white, good and evil as well as weakness and strength.

Although the exhibition flows chronologically, it is nice to move both forward and backwards in time to comprehend the nuances of the trajectory and influences in her work— specifically how they relate to world events. The most recent works in the exhibition are the HD single channel videos The Colony and Land of Dreams (both 2019) and the accompanying installation of photographs. In the film, Land of Dreams, Neshat documents a photographer as she travels through the Southwest United States interviewing subjects about their dreams. The images she took on this journey are presented salon style in the last gallery, becoming a compelling portrait of America and Americans representing both the perspective of an outsidee looking in and an insider looking out.

Neshat is a poetic and political artist and it is a rare treat to see this huge body of work presented together. As the exhibition run draws to a close, now is the time to revisit and indulge in her visual masterpieces.