Tala Madani

A with Wagon


Not on display

Tala Madani born 1981
Oil paint on wood
Support: 300 × 300 × 30 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Middle East North Africa Acquisitions Committee 2011


This small painting shows a stylised headless torso whose arms are pushing a small wooden wagon or cart. The abbreviation of the body gives the impression that the torso and arms form the capital letter A as indicated in the title. The top half of the background is a pale cream colour, while the lower half is painted with broad brushstrokes to suggest a pavement or board walk. A darker horizontal stripe at the bottom of the canvas contributes to this effect. The broad, fluent brushstrokes are typical of Madani’s paintings which are produced in her studio in New York.

A with Wagon is representative of Madani’s body of work in which she played with symbols from the alphabet, in both large and small scale works, like this one. Discussing her exhibition at Lombard Freid Projects in New York, where this group of paintings was shown between February and April 2010, Madani said:

I was exploring going back to the signs of the alphabet as raw image, as opposed to language. The show dealt with the idea of the figures wanting to become alphabetic characters, and yet always somehow missing the mark. There is this sentiment throughout of heavy irony pulling the figures down. The A for instance – I thought it would be funny to have an A with an empty wagon, forcing the strict functionality upon it.
(Quoted in McGarry 2010, accessed 1 August 2010.)

Many of Iranian-born Madani’s paintings represent male figures, singly or in groups, often rendered in a cartoon-like satirical fashion, adopting somewhat ridiculous often grotesque attitudes such as stooping over in a compromising or suggestive manner, attempting feats of circus-like physical endurance or other bodily contortions. Madani has stated that her use of the male figure is not only a critique of machismo but also a commentary on social and gender stereotypes. She has described her characters as ‘just playing, and unsocialized in a way’ (McGarry 2010, accessed 1 August 2010). Her group paintings demonstrate an interest in the behaviour of the crowd, as opposed to the individual. She has said: ‘I’m interested in mass behaviour versus private behaviour. As a child of the revolution [in Iran] and witness to many football games I’m intrigued with what people can do in masses, which they would not do alone.’ (Quoted in Metropolis M, no.2, April–May 2009, p.78.)

Further reading   
The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, exhibition catalogue, New Museum, New York 2009, p.130–1.
Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, exhibition catalogue, Saatchi Gallery, London 2009.
Kevin McGarry, ‘Greater New Yorkers | Tala Madani’, The New York Times Style Magazine, 2 June 2010, http://tmagazine.blogs.nytims.com/2010/06/02/greater-new-yorkers-tala-madani, accessed 1 August 2010.

Jessica Morgan
August 2010

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