Aryana Minai: Spiral Solitude
Maple Street Construction
By JONATHAN OROZCO, July 2022
Los Angeles-based artist Aryana Minai kicked off Maple St. Construct’s residency and exhibition program for 2022 with her solo show spiraling loneliness. It is a collection of objects made from books shredded into sheets of paper pulp with various pressed textures.
“These are probably the most abstract pieces I’ve done.” said Minai. “I draw a lot more with bricks, blocks of wood or objects… It’s kind of a weird performance.” The artist’s fingers are impressed in many works, however, she says, “other pieces are embossed with found objects”.
Its manufacturing process is simple: it involves making handmade paper, something that is usually taught to elementary school children. Minai took used books from a local goodwill in Omaha and shredded them in a blender. Then she used a screen to make large sheets, dyeing them with inks along the way. The last step being the most important – using bricks, iron or wooden blocks to imprint patterns on the surface of the paper.
This is an unconventional type of engraving, a “home-made” engraving, according to Minai.
The exhibition space displays not only these completed rectangular or square objects, but also the tools she used. In one bedroom, there is a bathtub with a screen. There are also bricks placed everywhere, stacked alone or next to a filled sheet of paper.
Minai reveals the value of her art more as a performance than as the creation of a masterpiece.
A few days before his exhibition, I visited his studio and almost stepped on one of the objects. It’s like she almost doesn’t care. Minai also asked me to help move one of his works from one building to another. You can’t even imagine doing something like that in a museum, touching a work of art without serious repercussions.
Even though his works are elaborately decorated, his choice of colors is very muted and almost looks like tie-dye. They are composed mainly of brown earth tones, dark blues, magentas or fir greens.
A larger work, titled Be (up) against II, was pressed with a piece of protective fencing/ironwork as well as hatch-like fingers. At the corners are brick impressions, which made the paper very flat. Like the other works, this piece is mostly brown, terracotta, with some grayish blue and what looks like a diluted green.
Conceptually, the work does not deviate much from artists like Paul Anthony Smith, Edra Soto, Rachel Whiteread or Jezabeth Roca González, who use architectural objects to create palimpsests and impressions.
In Be (up) against II, we see this link with architecture. It is “a memory in the room”. said Minai. “It feels like home.”
It is quite a transferable memory, as many parts of the world use this type of metalwork. Minai says it reminds her of Iran, and it also reminds me of Mexico.
There are also much smaller squares that are meant to look like ceramic tiles, those in Be (up) against IV and shoe chain in particular, although they are displayed in a much more abstract way. Unlike the larger works, these works are not colored in different colors and are purely orange-reds, browns and almost black colors.
The print in shoe chain comes from what appears to be a bicycle chain that, when pressed into the sheets of paper, looks like fossils, DNA, or centipede tracks. It lacks the decorative finesse of large-scale works and seems to be more a matter of introspection or psychological interpretation.
Apart from the physical marks in the work, the materials used by Minai are also charged. In other works, the artist has used shredded medical bills as material. Not only did Minai use fiction books as his primary material, but the stories they contain are a hidden aspect to understanding the work, especially since the artist began developing this series when former President Donald Trump was stoking tensions with Iran.
Many of these books spoke to topics related to the “East vs. West” mentality that continues to inform contemporary political and intellectual discourse, however perverted and inaccurate.
It is just as much a palimpsest, an aspect of memory, as the physical objects leaving an imprint on the works. WM