I'm Coming Home

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I'm Coming Home photo
Contemporary Wing
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Editorial Review

Dual meaning of homecoming
By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, June 1, 2012

I’m Coming Home,” the title of Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi’s exhibition of paintings, has a double meaning. For the Washington-based, Iranian-born artist, it alludes to an undercurrent in her current body of work: a series of eight landscapelike abstractions in which the sanctity of the home (represented by the visual metaphor of a lush garden) is violated by invasive forces. Plants sprout from explosive splashes of acrylic pigment, among which are hidden such items of military hardware as warplanes, a helicopter and a missile.

For her art dealer, Lauren Gentile of Contemporary Wing, a new gallery at the Logan Circle site of the shuttered Irvine Contemporary, the title can be read in another sense. Gentile is the former director of Irvine, which closed last summer after five years on 14th Street NW. “I’m Coming Home” is Contemporary Wing’s first show in Gentile’s new/old home.

It’s an auspicious beginning, if red dots are any indication. The little stickers -- the art world’s visual shorthand for “sold” -- were all over the walls after less than two weeks in business. Gentile hopes to keep that momentum going in a series of short summer showcases, almost like swap meets, that will feature work owned by private collectors looking to sell, exchange or acquire cutting-edge contemporary pieces.

And Javanshir Ilchi’s work is certainly attractive.

The painting that lends the show its title centers on a splash of bright pink (although, thankfully, not of the Disney princess variety). All of the pieces seem to be in love with the physical properties of paint, a hallmark of the American University art department, from which Javanshir Ilchi received her master’s in fine arts last spring. The stuff virtually dances -- in squirts and in spurts -- all over these pictures; in one case, quite literally. “Of Fear and Sorrows That Infest the Soul” features loopy green drips hanging off the Mylar surface on which it’s painted, like loose threads.

The gimmick isn’t necessary. Javanshir Ilchi’s paintings have enough energy within their borders. They needn’t jump outside the frame, which distracts from their beauty.

Yet if her paintings are beautiful, they’re not just beautiful. There’s a dark shadow hanging over them, exemplified by works such as “There Hidden, Far Beneath and Long Ago,” which is dominated by a puddle that looks like spilled blood. That shadow lends the works depth and heft.

If the little oases of green vegetation in her paintings evoke paradise, there’s trouble lurking there, like weeds.

The story behind the work
By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, June 1, 2012

Chaos and order are at war in “I’m Coming Home,” a show that pits the wild abstraction of Western art with the tight tradition of Persian manuscript illumination. Several of Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi’s paintings incorporate examples of the tazhib, a form of elaborate decoration derived from the Arabic word for gold, or gilding.

Separately painted by the artist -- who then collages them onto her paintings like book pages -- the ornately patterned designs are meant to represent the walled gardens common to many Iranian homes.

Also common to many modern Iranian homes is the satellite dish, which is often the residents’ only link to the outside world. Several of Javanshir Ilchi’s paintings -- “Slicing Paradise,” “Descend” and “Knok Knok, Who’s There?” -- feature pictures of tiny satellite dishes. In “Descend,” the hardware is shown swinging from a rope, as if it’s being spirited away by unseen forces.

The significance is pointed. Although Javanshir Ilchi’s politics are somewhat veiled, it should be noted that the Iranian government often confiscates what it deems illegal satellite dishes in the name of “social security.”