From 02/11/2023 to 03/11/2023
Mexico City, Mexico.

Iranian artist Nairy Baghramian exhibits her recent collection of sculptures Modèle Vivant at the Mexican gallery Kurimanzutto.


In French, modèle vivant refers to the practice of drawing, painting or sculpting the human figure from a living model; that is, from a person who adopts, assumes or maintains a certain pose in the service of the artist's composition. The title of Nairy Baghramian's current exhibition not only lends its name to her new body of work, but also evokes a conventional history of practices in artists' studios, which often seemed to subsume or sublimate bodies, depending on the point of view.


On the other hand, Baghramian's sculptures assert that points of view can change, sometimes must change (sometimes over and over again). In more literal terms, the particular place from which a viewer looks at a sculpture changes as the person moves his or her own body around or in relation to the work. From a more metaphorical point of view, the works in Modèle vivant question what a sculptural body can be and what it can mean, even when there is no body explicitly represented.


Baghramian interweaves her dozen abstract sculptures with as many figurative works by two 20th-century artists living in Mexico: Geles Cabrera (1926) and Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012). Cabrera's and Catlett's sculpted bodies are reclining or standing, embracing, leaning, fragmented, reconstructed, structurally articulated. Baghramian's sculptures are similarly arranged, many are reclining, seated or standing.


Vivant ("living") insists, grammatically, on a kind of continuous or persistent present tense. Baghramian has also named each sculpture in a way that grammatically parallels the title of the exhibition. In addition, she designated each sculpture with a reflexive verb, a form that validates the equivalence between subject and object, reflecting an action in its actor: to behave, to engage, to have fun. Reflexivity makes sense in many of Baghramian's titles: S'éloignant ("moving away") or S'allongeant ("leaning back"), for example. In contrast, the shared title of her six sculptures S'accrochant ("clinging") is a bit more complicated. The suspension of their sturdy forms from prominent hooks evokes a slaughterhouse, which in turn suggests the chilling passivity of body parts hung by someone else. To which the reflexive verb responds: these sculptures were not hung, but suspended.

Nairy Baghramian explores forms and concepts inherited from art history to address issues of functionality, decoration, abstraction and feminism. Her work offers a reflection on the incessant production of aesthetic objects and cultivates an interest in marginal spaces and means of creation, often considered the territory of the "feminine". With sculptures, made of materials as diverse as steel, silicone, resin and leather, Baghramian brings art references into the realm of the subjective and dismantles the human body through the politics of interior design. The result offers us a "rereading" of the legacy of minimalism and surrealism, in the form of protrusions and cavities, lumps and sprawls, organs and body parts. Instability, a recurring theme in Baghramian's work, is manifested in the use of weak and flimsy supports in her sculptures: hanging or leaning, always on the verge of collapse. The strength of her work lies precisely in taking up the delicate and ignored as a starting point to create sculptures aware of their own fragility, which at the same time preside confidently over the exhibition space.


Modèle vivant. Solo exhibition by Nairy Baghramian.


Until March 11, 2023.


Kurimanzutto Gallery. Gob. rafael rebollar 94. Col. San Miguel Chapultepec. 11850, Mexico City, Mexico.