Haleh Redjaian, Untitled, 2015, lithograph and thread on handwoven carpet, 43 3/4 × 27 1/2".

Haleh Redjaian, Untitled, 2015, lithograph and thread on handwoven carpet, 43 3/4 × 27 1/2".

Haleh Redjaian

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

Haleh Redjaian, Untitled, 2015, lithograph and thread on handwoven carpet, 43 3/4 × 27 1/2".

Like the work of her elders Nasreen Mohamedi and Zarina, Berlin-based Haleh Redjaian’s austere but playful abstractions exemplify an alternative Minimalist practice, one that simultaneously engages and troubles the grid, not wholly dismissing its potential for supporting and generating ornament and pattern, and that expresses the weight of memory and affect through the strategic use of reductive nonobjective forms. Including works in pen, graphite, paint, and gold leaf on paper, in thread on handwoven carpet, and spatial installations created using thread,“in-between spaces,” Redjaian’s solo debut in Dubai, presented a series of challenges to the grid’s orthogonal rigidity and absolute dominance as a fundamental structure of abstraction, a tool through which distinctions between figure and ground can be erased.

In many of Redjaian’s drawings, the grid provides the appearance of a regular matrix upon which more incidental and intuitive marks are executed, producing compositions that vibrate with the tension between order and disorder. Redjaian’s grids are often hand drawn, with some lines emphasized more strongly than others, disrupting their regularity and creating patterns within the overall structure. Even when graph paper is used, this base is often overlaid with other lines or another grid, rotated ninety degrees, its intersecting diagonals producing a field of triangles that can be variously filled in to produce both regular and irregular patterns.

Uniting Redjaian’s practice across different media is the artist’s abiding interest in the poetics of straight lines, whether as marks on a page or as threads stretched taut across a carpet or through space. The exhibition’s eponymous centerpiece, the series “in-between spaces,” 2015, is an ethereal thread installation that cleverly abstracts Tehran’s iconic Azadi Tower into a minimal spatial gesture through an economy of means. The monument’s distinctive torque, as its vaulted center section fans out horizontally toward the ground, is re-created by simply rotating one end of a horizontal rectangular field of hundreds of parallel blue threads by ninety degrees, creating a curved surface anchored to the wall in a vertical line on one side, and to the floor, in a row aligned with the wall’s surface, in front of it on the other. A mirror image of this twisted plane, separated by a couple of feet from the first, completes the effect. Redjaian associates the landmark with memories of family trips to visit her grandmother, and the installation’s transparency serves as a somewhat melancholic metaphor for how the past is remembered, its experiential richness reduced to the ghost of an icon.

Thread reappears in a nearby set of abstract drawings (all Untitled, 2015) that feature handwoven wool carpets as supports, deploying their interweaving warp and weft as a proxy grid. Custom-made for Redjaian in Kerman, Iran, most of the carpets, which traditionally feature vibrant patterns, are monochromatic, the color of natural wool mimicking that of paper; one displays a brown woven grid. Redjaian has printed polygons, both regular and irregular, onto some of the carpets, the lithographic ink impregnating the wool to different degrees. Finally, simple geometric forms and patterns (varying from two nested rhomboids to an upside-down triangle filling the top half of a printed blue rectangle), made up of fields or rows of parallel threads carefully pulled taut across the carpets’ surfaces, float delicately atop their support. Spaced just far enough apart to be individually visible, the threads seem to dissolve the very forms they articulate, rendering them somewhat fugitive, unmoored visually. And the sequential layering of forms gives the final composition just the slightest bit of depth. The cumulative effect of all this is subtle, introducing an almost imperceptible uncertainty into the equivalence of figure and ground that abstraction strives to achieve.

Murtaza Vali