The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is pleased to announce Toba Khedoori (September 25, 2016–January 2, 2017), a major museum survey of Khedoori’s oeuvre over the past 22 years. The exhibition presents the artist’s more recent oil-on-canvas paintings alongside her earlier large-scale works on paper, demonstrating the impressive arc of her artistic production over the past two decades. The exhibition includes more than 25 works and is curated by Franklin Sirmans, Director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and formerly the Terri and Michael Smooke Curator and Department Head of contemporary art at LACMA, with Christine Y. Kim, associate curator of contemporary art at LACMA. Following its run at LACMA, Toba Khedoori will be on view at PAMM from April 20–September 24, 2017.
Toba Khedoori has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1990. Her early works are notable for their precise draftsmanship and for their use of negative space—often at a very large scale. Khedoori frequently depicts architectural forms from distanced perspectives, rendering commonplace objects and spaces familiar yet decontextualized. In recent years, she has transitioned from paper to canvas, producing smaller scale works that hover between representation and abstraction. Like her earlier compositions, these works are enigmatic and acutely detailed; in an art world awash with rapidly moving images and saturated colors, Khedoori remains committed to the silent, slow, and exacting process of working by hand.
Sirmans said, “Toba Khedoori elevates the experience of the commonplace by treating ordinary objects and bits and pieces of nature as if they were precious baubles. Her attention to detail, her surrealist wit, and her appreciation for the magic of the everyday remind us to take stock of what surrounds us.”
“Looking at this survey of Khedoori’s work in the context of recent exhibitions at LACMA, one can see a focus emerging that is indicative of a changing world of art,” said Michael Govan, LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Considering the show alongside monographic exhibitions of Agnes Martin, Diana Thater, and Helen Pashgian as well as the long-term installation of Maria Nordman’s YANG-NA, it is clear that there is rapidly growing recognition of the work of women artists. In addition, the exhibition extends LACMA’s efforts to trace the recent history of art in Southern California, which includes Thater and Pashgian, as well as John Altoon, Asco, Edward Kienholz, Ken Price, Noah Purifoy, and James Turrell.”
About the Exhibition
Toba Khedoori is arranged in loose chronological and thematic order. The exhibition begins with large paintings on paper that ushered her into the contemporary art scene in the early 1990s. Her breakthrough came with monumental paintings on paper, such as Untitled (doors) (1996) and LACMA’s own Untitled (hallway) (1997), within which detritus from her studio floor appears embedded in the wax surfaces. Depicting common objects and architectural features and occupying a space between painting and drawing, these impressive works seem to withhold as much as they reveal. While Khedoori’s works are emphatically two-dimensional, the scale of those early paintings brings them into dialogue with the actual experience of architecture, which she often represents in fragments. While Khedoori’s emphasis the quotidian as subject matter serves as a sober update of Pop Art’s embrace of common objects, her placement of these everyday objects within undefined and thus mysterious surroundings invites an almost surreal unease.
Departing from the large scale and two-dimensionality found in Khedoori’s early work, the exhibition transitions into the artist’s paintings of the early 2000s. Here scale, shadows, and contrast become more varied and dramatic. Untitled (clouds) (2005), for example, is a vertical format with its entire upper half is filled with billowy clouds while the lower half is mostly empty space. Before 2005, almost all of Khedoori’s works are horizontal, suggesting the horizon line of nature and landscapes in the history of art while creating a surprising contrast with the everyday objects shown within these frames. Untitled (clouds), on the other hand, is oriented vertically and the clouds occupy the frame of the picture with no sky around them. Untitled (black fireplace) (2006) and Untitled (white fireplace) (2005) feature an almost photorealist depiction of wood burning in a fireplace. In these works, she takes the same subject and paints it twice, changing only the color of the space surrounding the image of the fireplace. Using encaustic, she makes one work black; the other is simply oil and wax on paper, like her earlier works. Through this contrast, she encourages viewers to examine these differences, inviting them to question the copy in a world where the idea that something cannot be reproduced has long ago vanished.
The final gallery in the exhibition showcases the artist’s most recent work, including two paintings depicting branches and leaves. In Untitled (leaves/branches) (2015), Khedoori executes the line, color, and proportions of foliage with technical mastery. In contrast to the photorealistic quality of these works, other pieces in this final gallery move toward grids and abstraction, such as Untitled (tile) (2015), a geometric study of a mosaic tile floor reflecting light from an unseen source.
About Toba Khedoori
Toba Khedoori was born in Sydney, Australia in 1964. She received her BA from the San Francisco Art Institute (1988) and her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles (1994).
Her work has been the subject of solo museum exhibitions worldwide, including the Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis (2003); Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2002); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2001); Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (2001); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1997); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1997).