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Los Angeles | Feb 24th - April 6th 2024
A studio visit at Five Car Garage with artist Morteza Khakshoor
Opens Saturday February  24th  2-5pm

"I always draw, really. Even when I paint, I think for the most part I am still drawing. I don’t know if it is true for all artists but certainly is true in my case or at least it is how I feel about it. All my interests in art go back to drawing in a way; when I paint or make prints, I think they are all other possibilities of my drawing practice. I think more than anything I am interested in shapes and forms, way more than color."

Emma Gray HQ is pleased to present STUDIO VISIT, a solo exhibition of Morteza Khakshoor, which marks his second solo show with the gallery. Opening February 24th, the exhibit, a recreation of Khakshoor's art studio, is at once both a mirror of the artist's studio and a stage; a space of becoming, unravelling and ritual, where objects, paintings, and drawings beckon the viewer to enter the room where the artist's works are conceived and created. The exhibition includes a group of new acrylic paintings - in various sizes - along with a series of small mixed media canvases accompanied with a large selection of drawings, sketches, compositional studies, collages and ephemera.

STUDIO VISIT invites the viewer to experience Khakshoor's art practice, where art objects, tools and studio interiors formally and thematically draw our attention to the element of ritual within his work. The interplay between the imagery depicted in the paintings and drawings, and how the works are situated in space closes the distance between front stage, back stage, creator and audience. As boundary between artist and viewer breaks down, the studio rituals such as the act of drinking a cup of tea followed by a drawing session become palpable in the gallery space.

In discussion with Emma Gray about his art studio practice, Morteza expresses his profound connection to the act of drawing. He emphasizes drawing's importance to his studio routine which stems from a persistent investment in shapes and forms.

Khakshoor’s semi-narrative images are often an amalgam of found photographs, made-up/imaginary scenarios, seen and remembered events, historical and fictional texts, and cinematic and theatrical resources. Works in this exhibition display artist’s ongoing fascination with psychologically charged scenarios that often defy linear narrative and easy interpretations. This series of work looks into Khakshoor’s most repeated subject - the male character and their behavior - from different and sometimes contradictory angles; one painting depicting a smiling mischievous young man who is dressed only in a slightly oversized sport jacket, and grinning while looking a shattered antique Chinese vase. While another painting depicts what appears to be a very melancholic young man collapsing on his bed looking straight at the viewer.

Please enjoy the full conversation between the artist and Emma below the images :

How many things have to happen before you actually sit down or stand to paint?

The main thing for me is to find something in the studio that excites me in that moment; it could be a little sketch on the wall or one of the paintings I’ve been working on. Or one of the warm-up drawings I just made that morning sparking something promising.

Do you listen to music and can you describe what you listen to and how important that is to you or why you like it?

I spend most  almost every day in the studio, so this is the biggest chunk of time I listen to music during the day. However, I don’t always listen to music while working. It really depends on my mood and what I am working on. If I’m cranky or there is something on my mind, I can not listen to anything while  I work.

Also, if I am working on something that requires me to get analytical and thoughtful (let’s say the painting or drawing I’m working on is not working and not doing what I want it to do, or I’m struggling finding the right color, shape, etc.) I only listen to music when things are working and I’m in the ‘zone’; this is when things are happening organically and by themselves; when images are making themselves sort of a thing – and it is a real thing! The main goal every working day is to get there at some point. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen everyday. When I’m doing mechanical things like preparing canvases, gesso-ing, sanding, etc. I prefer to listen to podcasts mostly. I listen to many many kinds of music; Iranian classical/traditional music, opera and classical, contemporary classic music, rock, folk/world music, sometimes jazz but not that often, and a lot of soundtracks!

If I was not an artist, I think I wanted to write music for movies instead; it is the coolest thing! But I don’t have any talent or skills in music so it will remain only a wish, forever. I often randomly get into a certain type of music and for a week or two I listen to as many things as possible in that genre; at the moment I am in my Phillip Glass mood again, and have been listening to his operas for the last 2 weeks. I think the only things I voluntarily don’t listen to are country, pop, and rap music (nothing against them, just not my vibe as kids say these days!) I can’t speak on the importance of music to me or my work; all I can say is that when a piece of music is so great (like Mahler’s Symphony No.5 – or anything by him really! Or anything sang by Maria Callas! And above all, Bach!) nothing is like it. To be honest, I can’t remember anything (people and nature aside) has ever given me the amount of pleasure that the music has in my life.

I know drawing is special part of your practice can you explain how drawing opens you and how it informs a painting. Do you make the drawing for a painting or does the process of doodling and drawing inform or create the next paint. How essential is drawing for you?

I always draw, really. Even when I paint, I think for the most part I am still drawing. I don’t know if it is true for all artists but certainly is true in my case or at least it is how I feel about it. All my interests in art go back to drawing in a way; when I paint or make prints, I think they are all other possibilities of my drawing practice. I think more than anything I am interested in shapes and forms, way more than color. Usually when a painting is not working for me, I know that deep down I am not happy with that the design more than anything else (I really mean Disegno here, the Italian term from Renaissance). I can say that all my paintings somehow originate from some sort of a drawing; it is sometime an elaborate sketch and sometimes could be just a very crude doodle. But the connection is always there.

For me, there is a limited time  that can be spent making a drawing before it loses its power and magic. When I see a drawing in my studio that I feel has a potential to become something else, or when there is an image that I feel I want to spend more time with it, then I make it into a painting; not to only make a colored version of that image, but – hopefully – to take it somewhere else and land to a new place.

This doesn’t happen all the time, but it is the goal. The way I think and feel about painting and drawing is paradoxical! At times, they are one thing and sometimes they are so different from each other.

I rarely make a drawing to later make it into a painting. Once in a while I have done it, but for the most part, I make drawings just for the sake of drawing. Of all drawings I make almost on a daily basis, some go straight to the trash bin, some remain as they are, and some generate other drawings and different versions.  I also make drawings as I am painting an image; as often what ends up being on the canvas is different from what I used as a starter. So, even when I am painting, I go back and forth between my drawing desk and the painting wall.

I know you collect postcards and images and colors that inspire you - where does that practice begin and end?

I use whatever that can help me in making images. There is no formula in it. I find, take, and use any resources that I need at the moment as I go along working on something. This action of collecting and archiving things (postcards, images from books digital images found online, pictures I take on my phone everyday) has been part of my ‘studio work’ for many years and now I do it automatically whenever wherever I am; at a bookstore, while I’m driving to the studio, or when I’m on vacation). I just collect and save anything that captures my eyes. One of my teachers many years ago told me ‘a good artist is resourceful’. I am not sure what he meant by that exactly and why he said it, but this is my version of being resourceful I think; take anything that you think is useful, unapologetically!

Do you use your own body/hand in the studio mirror?

Yes, All the time! I’m always in my pictures somehow. They are not pictures of me per se, but I am always there!

Do you have messy studio and do you like a messy studio to feel immersed?

I have a semi-messy studio I would say. I like a messy studio up to a point. My studio gets messier and messier usually as I am working toward shows. As soon as the work leaves the studio, I spend the next day making it extra clean and organized, getting it ready for the next cycle. But even when it’s messy, it’s always functional-messy. I don’t like mess. I have learned when the studio is messy – especially when I’m lost and my thoughts are not clear and in shape – a messy place does not help. The studio is really the extension of the artist’s thoughts and vice versa, I think!

To activate the studio at Five Car Garage we will host some informal life drawing sessions with local artists all modeling and sitting for each other, this will happen during gallery opens hours, stay tuned!

Morteza Khakshoor (b. 1984 Iran) currently lives and works in LA. He moved to the US in 2010 to continue his education in Fine Arts. He received his BFA from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in 2015 and completed his MFA at The Ohio State University in 2018. He has been exhibiting his work nationally and internationally since 2011. Recent solo exhibitions include‘Pin-drop’, Duane Thomas Gallery, NYC (2023) ; ‘The Quiet Path to Otherwhere’, Taymour Grahne Projects, London, UK (2023); and ‘Dirty Words and A Melody’, Wilder Gallery, London, UK (2022).
Group Exhibitions include, ‘Painters - London’, Half Gallery Annex, NYC (2023); ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, Lundgren Gallery, Mallorca, Spain (2022); and ‘Paper’, Beers Gallery, London, UK (2022).His work also has been exhibited at international art fairs such as CAN Art Fair (2023), London Art Fair (2023), NADA Miami (2022), and E/AB (2018 - winner of the inaugural Emerging Artist Award). His works are in several private and public collections, most notably The Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice in New York City and The X Museum in Beijing, China.