Critics’ Picks

Sara Naim, Red, Yellow, and Blue, 2012, C-type digital print, 67 x 45 1/2".


Sara Naim

The Pavilion Downtown Dubai
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd, Downtown Dubai
July 24 - October 24

Twenty-first-century Dubai is a true simulacrum. Before the 2008 recession sent its high-flying real estate market into a sharp nosedive, the city’s ever-evolving urban form was largely experienced not through physical encounters with built structures but as a series of digitally rendered future projections looming large on the billboards that barricade countless construction sites. Unsurprisingly, then, much of the art that goes on view in this city can be similarly image-driven, rarely pausing to reflect on the specific processes, material conditions, and histories of any given medium. Sara Naim’s promising solo debut, comprising eleven large-scale color photographs, is a notable exception.

Scanned enlargements of the edges of photographic negatives, often improperly exposed or tarnished by light leaking in, these images transfigure the incidental artifacts and minor accidents of both the photographic and scanning process into a series of sublime compositions whose matter-of-fact titles simply indicate the vibrant colors encountered in each image. Some bear a striking resemblance to canonical abstract paintings. In Red and Blue (all works 2012), a triumphant red stripe divides a blue-black frame in half, like a Barnett Newman zip, while the Rothko-like Red, Orange, Yellow and Blue consists of a pair of stacked rectangles with suitably fuzzy edges.

Naim has attempted to photograph such physical intangibles as sound vibrations, dead skin cells, and the human cornea in past work, and her current series suggests both the cellular and the cosmic. Orange, Blue and Purple, a pale bluish field scoured with jagged vertical ridges, resembles both a tissue sample under a microscope and a barren desert landscape viewed from the heavens, while Orange and Yellow, a glorious yellow field edged with a band of deep orange on the right, seems to picture a solar flare, a visualization of pure light, the usually invisible element of any and every photographic act.