Critics’ Picks

Iman Issa, Labouring (study 2012), 2012, mahogany, sculpture, text panel under glass, white plinth, 15 1/2 x 12".


Iman Issa

125 Charing Cross Road
March 14–May 16

With the seminal 1965 piece One and Three Chairs artist Joseph Kosuth laid down a semiotic three-of-a-kind and dared viewers to call his bluff. For the exhibition “Lexicon,” Iman Issa slyly tweaks this format, finding her referents not in functional objects like chairs, but rather in something more difficult to define: a series of paintings. While they themselves are not on view, we are told that they vary in style, subject matter, and setting and that they are unified only by a shared attempt to convey a significance greater than the narrative sum of their content—in short, they are paintings that aim to mean something.

The artist offers two interpretations of each painting, coupling a text that describes the scene, technique, and dimensions of the work with sculptural objects riffing on the essence of each image. Issa endows these latter forms with fluidity, elegance, and economy, crafting sleek constructions of unadorned materials such as aluminum, mahogany, and walnut.

The collected installation could risk reading more like a showroom of fetishized design objects than semiotic play, but Issa maintains tension by emphasizing the extremes in interpretation. For instance, the paragraph accompanying Seduction (study for 2014), 2014, details a man reaching for a bird while a woman twirls her hair under what is described as a “perfectly round sun.” The sculptural component consists of two lines laid flat on a low horizontal plinth. The first is aluminum and completely straight while the second is bronze and juts out at uneven intervals, like the fringes of a city skyline. What is produced is a dictionary that develops more than it defines.