I have followed Shirana Shahbazi’s work over the last few years and always liked it. I liked how she moved fluidly between different genres, mixing up still lives with landscapes. Recently she has been taking on a new genre all together—abstraction. I saw this work in the flesh for the first time at a special display at the Basel art fair this summer, and was knocked off my feet. Her giant photographs (standing over two meters tall, which is taller than me!), were sumptuous fields of saturated color, geometric shapes, and patterns. How did she do it? I visited the artist in her Zurich studio where she showed me how they were made. Her pictures are executed in the crisp style of commercial studio photography and without the aid of digital tools. To create her abstract compositions she has a number of geometric volumes and pedestals, with each side of the volume painted a different color. She arranges the blocks and pedestals in front of her camera, sometimes taking multiple exposures of the same set of volumes, turning the blocks between exposures, to create a confusing flattening of space.
At MoMA these abstract works are installed over a patterned wallpaper (derived from one of her photographs) made specifically for the exhibition, and are paired with some of her representational works, like a beautiful landscape made in the Swiss alps. Her arrangements draw similarities between pictures from seemingly different genres and point to the structural parallels between outside and inside, organic and manufactured, and the natural and constructed landscape.
New Photography 2012 is on view in MoMA’s third-floor Photography Galleries through February 4, 2013.