Spectral Explorations

February 26, 2014 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Lise McKean

Roshandan-3548E, 2014 Found object 42 x 17.5 in

Roshandan-3548E, 2014
Found object
42 x 17.5 in

The six works in White Light by Fatima Haider and Nazafarin Lofti at Andrew Rafacz in Chicago’s West Loop embody an elegant sufficiency of form and resonate across time and space. From Lotfi’s digital photographs to Haider’s found object, a weathered wooden frame of a multicolored window from Lahore, Pakistan, White Light embraces all sorts of ways of looking and seeing, thinking and making.

Hanging tête-à-tête, pigmented inkjet prints by Haider and Lotfi are straight ahead when the visitor enters the gallery. Up close the undulating shapes set in ivory-colored marble look like outside-the-lines drawing in Haider’s Squared. In fact, the shapes are made of oxidized lime filling in for the lapis lazuli, carnelian, jade, and other semiprecious stones that bygone looters gouged out of the marble of the Naulakha Pavilion at the monumental Lahore Fort.

Squared, 2014 Pigmented inkjet print 27 x 27 in

Squared, 2014
Pigmented inkjet print
27 x 27 in

With their homely generic shapes, the five bottles in Lotfi’s Untitled Family Portrait play double bass to the aria of floral ornamentation in Haider’s Squared. Yet as the viewer moves closer, it becomes apparent that meticulous coils of cotton kitchen twine cover each bottle. Standing near or far, these bottles recall Morandi’s explorations with light, color, surface, and composition.

Untitled Family Portrait, 2104 Pigmented inkjet print on matte paper 10.5 x 15 in

Untitled Family Portrait, 2104
Pigmented inkjet print on matte paper
10.5 x 15 in

Lotfi’s Limits builds up its surface with rhythmic brushwork in black and white to create patterns of tessellated arcs. In Gray Field, she uses acrylic paint and ink on canvas—again in black and white—combining horizontal lines with brushwork to produce a relaxed patchwork of Gutai-like tire tracks. Or maybe a group portrait of shredded wheat. Her other work, Encounter(inplace) is a triptych made from photographs she shot through a pin-pricked sheet of paper looking out to Lake Michigan from the limestone rocks of Chicago’s plebeian monument, The Point. The paper acts like the marble lattice work of Mughal architecture, blocking light and view while giving way to the emergence of larger contours such as the horizon of water and sky.

Encounter(inplace),  digital photographs printed on satin paper 34.5 x 24 in each

Encounter (in place),
digital photographs printed on satin paper
34.5 x 24 in each

Haider’s Roshandan-3548E is an example of the brightly colored windows that were once commonplace across the Indian subcontinent. Her found object is also a salvage operation. The Lahore Fort is barely off the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger and the city’s old buildings are steadily overhauled or replaced by new ones. The work’s  straightforward title belies its valence. The number 3548E refers to the house number for the building near the Lahore Fort that was home to the window, a number which may or may not help in finding the place. Roshandan is the word in Urdu and Hindi for this type of window (literally “that which has light”). It’s typically mounted high on the wall to let in light and to send away the summer’s ferociously hot air.

With works that are deeper than their surfaces let on, Haider and Lotfi open the roshandan and release some of the hot air that circulates in contemporary art circles beset with the lingua franca of research and theory. More than simply a tête-à-tête, White Light is abundant evidence of Haider and Lotfi’s deepening rapport with each other—and with each one’s own drive to see and to make art.

White Light at Andrew Rafacz runs through March 29, 2014

Lise McKean is a social anthropologist and writer based in Chicago. In 2013 she curated StreamLines, an exhibition of contemporary art in Vaishali, India.

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