Critics’ Picks

View of Nargess Hashemi’s “I will build a tall city interconnected by cul-de-sacs,” 2018.


Nargess Hashemi

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Unit 17, Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1
May 12–July 26

Nargess Hashemi believes in the possibility of a utopian ideal city. Her vision of its untapped potential is manifested through the exhibition “I will build a tall city interconnected by cul-de-sacs,” where unlabeled imagined blueprints in the form of abstract geometrics are veiled and revealed by her large, undulating, crocheted curtains hanging throughout the exhibition space. While at first the Iranian artist's complex compositions all read similarly, subtleties render Hashemi's idealistic visions meticulously varied.

These untitled works envelop. Meters-long loose knits recalling craft-oriented techniques, or small works on paper reminiscent of Persian mosaic, are rife with gridded patterns, colors, squares, stars, and circles that only disclose their hand-drawn nature upon closer inspection. Though the works are visually cacophonous, masterful tonal manipulation soothes the eyes with gentle gradations of retro pastel hues. A symbol legend appears at the tail end of the exhibition, unexpectedly clarifying that the configurations are concrete plans: Shapes and myriad colors symbolize proposed placements of residences, cul-de-sacs, medical centers, or green spaces. One begins to appreciate the busy hanging, its invocation of crowded metropolitan life.

While Hashemi’s works are elegantly restrained pleas for interconnectedness, diversity, and peace, the exhibition risks falling short because of the very elements that hold it up. The emphasis on formal qualities—which allow the works a firm, stand-alone visual impact—belies the fortitude of Hashemi’s weighty civic subject, prompting questions of whether her work needs a stronger social grounding. Still, through a refreshed creative proposition for utopian dwelling—regardless of whether an aesthetic ideal is enough—Hashemi offers a starting point to rethink accepted modes and formats of living.