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Dry Land
 
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November 11, 1999 — December 04, 1999
76 Grand Street, New York

Dry Land, was an installation combining new paintings and photographic works by Y. Z. Kami. Haunting portraits were juxtaposed with evocative photographs of facades and landscapes to create a powerful vision of the end of the century.
In the opening section of the exhibition, 170 pages of a handmade book were installed floor-to-ceiling like a film storyboard. Painted portraits were paired with iris print photographs of the facades of apartment houses, industrial structures, and desolate landscapes, taken in New York, Detroit, and the artist's native Iran. The faces, mostly of older people, displayed the same sort of worn, weatherbeaten, yet resolute quality of the facades. The pages of the book followed a process of desolation, destruction, and transformation to finally achieve a sense of arriving home. The people portrayed affirm the continuity of life through civilization's cycles of decay and rejuvenation.
In the main gallery, the artist installed two mural-sized paintings, featuring sparse grids of portraits. The head-on portraits alternated with blank rectangles painted in the color of desert sand. The sitters were a cross section of the people one might encounter in the daily routine of urban life. They represented the constant juxtaposition of diverse lives without real human interchange. The grids of faces paralleled the stark facades and empty windows in the photographic works. Many of the sitters were older and display the effects of fatigue and degradation. Some of the people had damaged eyes, a reflection of the visual pollution that they have witnessed. The sitters ultimately displayed a feeling of endurance, however, not a feeling of defeat. As in all of Kami's work, one got a sense of the continuity of life over the expanse of time. The sitters wear modern dress but seem to embody the spirit of the ancient world.


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