Working with the diverse immigrant community in his home city of Los Angeles, the artist creates portraits that investigate feelings of being an outsider in the very place you call home. In these paintings, Fallah deftly integrates both personal and collective narratives. Against the backdrop of a growing national sentiment that immigrants do not belong in this country, he mines the precarity of belonging in the United States.
Over the past decade, Fallah’s work has probed the history of Western portraiture. With saturated, artificial skin tones and banal-yet-elevated objects, his portraits display a Pop Art sensibility towards material culture. In this series, subjects perform historically loaded poses and gestures: Vibrant limbs of yellow and orange emerge from meticulously layered textiles, developing characters that are purposefully ambiguous. Charged with symbolism from countries and cultures left behind, the paintings suggest how stories outlive their physical hosts by also depicting the heirlooms that survive lifetimes of movement, trauma, and celebration.
Borrowing from the legacy of Persian miniatures, Fallah employs flattening and stacking within his compositions rather than creating an illusionistic sense of space. Geometric abstractions and lush swaths of flora form ornate, arabesque margins around his subjects, calling attention to the geopolitical and psychological space of borders. A new series of botanical paintings frame space with entangled ropes of jewelry, family photos, and vines, allowing viewers to project their own images onto vivid voids of color. By fusing the vernacular of Western portraiture with visual motifs found in Islamic art, Fallah’s paintings speak to his own hybridity as an Iranian immigrant.
A Stranger In Your Home also includes the installation Embracing the World, a domestic structure that houses the artist’s stained and fused glass self-portrait, which was made in collaboration with Judson Studios in Los Angeles. This installation features an audio recording of Fallah’s parents recounting the narrative of their own immigration from Iran to the United States. Oscillating in tone between documentary and mythology, Fallah’s works speak to the paradoxical placelessness that frequently defines the immigrant experience.
Listen to the audio component of this exhibition here.