Maysha Mohamedi at Parrasch Heijnen

Maysha Mohamedi, Head, Sacred Witness Sacred Menace, Parrasch Heijnen Gallery; Image courtesy of the gallery

Eight Paintings that Elevate

Parrasch Heijnen, Los Angeles
through June 11

By Lorraine Heitzman
If art were categorized according to the four elements of the zodiac, surely Maysha Mohamedi’s paintings would fall under the element of air. The predominate mood of her exquisite show at Parrasch Heijnen, Sacred Witness Sacred Menace, is one of buoyancy and movement. Like the invisible forces of air, these abstract paintings are energetic and windswept, skillfully articulated through the balance of line and shape, and the ratio between the painted and naked canvas. They broadcast a wiry nervous energy that is conveyed in a language without words.

Mohamedi’s paintings may look haphazard and random, like the paper remnants on a weathered billboard, but her paintings show a deliberate hand. Even so, our attention is repeatedly drawn to her process and the play between the stationary and active aspects of her compositions. Much like Cy Twombly and Arshile Gorky, she relies heavily on drawing for these effects, though her work is more cerebral than the emotional and expressionist paintings of her predecessors. There is also something map-like about the paintings, suggesting interactive occurrences, a graphic representation of a nervous system. It is interesting to note that Mohamedi spent time researching molecular neuroscience while she studied cognitive science at UCSD and it certainly seems possible that it has influenced her work as much as her graduate studies later at the California College of the Arts.

The artist employs several methods to achieve her distinct imagery. She uses areas of neutral colors, including the raw canvas, to contrast with flat shapes of bolder hues. There is very little overlapping between the painted areas, but scraggly lines intersect and cross the picture plane, arcing gracefully or twisting back onto themselves. Oftentimes shapes are suspended from the lines like flags hanging on a clothesline, subtly suggesting motion, either the fluid movements of air currents or those of sparks crackling, releasing energy in fits and starts.

There is also a calligraphic quality to this work. The lines supply the connection between the colored shapes and unify the elements as sentences string words together. For all their boldness, there is a delicateness to the edges and marks that is neither geometric nor wholly organic. Perhaps it is this characteristic that elevates Mohadmedi’s work from a colder form of abstraction to one that is exceptionally nuanced and satisfying. In this, her first show at Parrasch Heijnen, she has created a body of work that is beautifully realized. Although the artist has exhibited extensively in both California and elsewhere, this dedicated show is a wonderful opportunity to view her paintings in greater depth. Sacred Witness Sacred Menace will be up through June 11. In addition, Mohamedi has two works included in the show organized by Jeff Poe, On Boxing, at Blum & Poe, from May 15- June 26, 2021.

Parrasch Heijnen
1326 S. Boyle Avenue Los Angeles, 90023

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