at Advocartsy, Los Angeles (through 4 February 2023)
Reviewed by Christopher Ian Lutz
The human mind seeks connectivity. The writing of letters and numbers, and the drawing of lines in a painting, are acts of connecting points. Furthermore, geometry, language, narration, astrology, and philosophy are intellectual means to connect points that align with our thoughts and emotions. This symmetry of our subjective experience with the objective physical world and universal phenomenon provides us with a sense of completeness. Our nature is complete, but we do not always have a sense of fullness. We design and search for wholeness in things outside ourselves to understand our identity. Even with such a sense of self-realization in our minute incarnation, there is a need for absolute truth to understand our relationship with the greater wholeness of the universe. Therefore, we extend a connection to all things to conceive of a divine form. However we conceive of divinity, whether spiritually or materially, the source of creation is pertinent to our sense of self. It is fundamental to our conception of perfection, for which we shape morals and law. The letter, the number, and the shape are not merely instrumental marks but are philosophical arguments that are elemental to our religious, political, and social ideologies.
Kourosh Beigpour’s Mandal exhibition at Advocartsy in West Hollywood are meditations on connectivity in both their creation and their public function with the audience. Beigpour explained in his artist statement, “Mandal is a sacred space marked out physically, imagined or worn by a traditional garment, as mystics sit in Chilla, a spiritual forty-day practice of penance and solitude, wherein the energy created provides protection for the sitter as they recite mantras.”
The creation of a mandal, real or imagined, simultaneously divides the individual from the immediate physical environment while internally connecting the practitioner’s mind to a universal relationship, wherein the individual is both in contrast with and an embodiment of the sublime (to use Beigpour’s language during our gallery walkthrough). The mandal is a microcosm of the universe and the sublime; therefore, it is logical, intentional, balanced and symmetrical. The sublime is symmetrical, perfect, by this logic. Yet there is an element of confusion in these artworks, because the designs within the boundaries of each mandal are fluid. Geometry is a space for expression and beauty. They contain secrets that are not understood at a mere first glance. Truth is hidden, and it is by observation and meditation that the practitioner, or in this case, the audience, can begin making connections and understand meaning beyond the artistic mark.
Contradiction is a prerequisite for connectivity. Even when all the dots are connected, thus creating a singular vision, contrast is inherent within that singularity. Mandal reflects duality with visions of the angelic and the demonic. Furthermore, in Beigpour’s work, humanity and the sublime are colored red and gold, respectively. Words are represented in their numerical value. Circles and squares depict the sublime and the mundane. The essence of perfection is diversity.
Upon these layers of dualism are dots coded by numbers. No lines connect the dots, but by their numerical value a relationship between them translates into a word. They are constellations yet to be created by the audience, although they already exist complete by the artist’s design. In Beigpour’s Mandal, there is no blending of color, but there is a blending of ideas. The model of contradiction causes ideas to be juxtaposed. The mind is one and struggles to compartmentalize contradiction. Everything becomes one when it is assimilated into the individual because the individual is one but also separate from creation. As these ideas become singular in the person, they become separated from their origin. The person experiences and comprehends diversity by absorbing the universe into their consciousness.
Sublime rituals of connection naturally extend the individual to humanity and social issues regarding politics, civil rights, and the environment. Beigpour makes this connection in his work, “Women, Life, Freedom.” Consisting of three panels, “Women, Life, Freedom” references the slogan that has globally united supporters challenging the Iranian Islamic Republic’s legislative gender inequality against women by advocating intervention from the United Nations. The movement has gained significant support from heads of state, other political figures, and community leaders, including current and former prime ministers and several Noble Prize laureates.
In this three-panel work, the backdrop is red, again symbolizing humanity. Black threads, seemingly undone, hang in disarray from the central panel. The chaos and frustration are evident, and in contrast to the mandals, this work is not beautified by perfect symmetry. The symmetry exists in the backdrop geometry, but the work has come undone. The constellation has been corrupted. The narrative has been imposed onto the audience, and it is a violent shower of thread as if torn from the veils of oppressed women. The veil is symbolic of the Islamic Republic’s gender inequality. In LA’s Century City, the Freedom Sculpture by Cecil Balmond, displayed in the center of Santa Monica Boulevard, was inspired by the Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient artifact that charters human rights. Recently, advocates for Women, Life, Freedom have hung veils from this sculpture to protest the inhumane treatment of the Islamic Republic in Iran. Beigpour has deconstructed the veil through black threads and reconfigured them within the sublime geometry of a protective space. The thread that composes the veil is not abolished but transformed. The pain is not neglected but given space to heal.
As there are figures of both angels and demons within the Mandal works, one who performs mediation, who performs Chilla, is not escaping society or the challenges of life but confronting such resistance in a way in which the individual can transform themselves and their environment. Such a ritual is seemingly divorced from anything sublime in everyday life. However, as Mandal teaches, everything is complete. The sublime is both hidden and revealed.
Christopher Ian Lutz is a Los Angeles-based art writer focusing on contemporary, esoteric, and global art.
Yehonatan Koenig says
Beautiful work and article; both inviting me to look closer at where the scared and the profane begin and and end if ever in the relational dance of their boundaries.
This gallery was full of exceptional art works and the Christopher explained Mandal perfectly!