“I’ve lost my touch with any sort of essay writing. I find it best to organize my thoughts in journals and so I’ve opted to write this statement with a similar tone. At best this is a breath of fresh air for the more hardened art viewers, at worst a very juvenile and cringe-inducing breach of the standard operating protocol. Let’s hope for the former.
And so, how I came about making 'Flesh'.
The series began with a simple question: How do we relate to our bodies? The initial cognitive wanderings addressed how we dehumanize one another and are so ready to disregard the felt experience of a human soul and instead render each other as useful bits of energy rich flesh. Sex, labor, and war felt to be the realms of human endeavor that feel most guilty of this quality, at very least the most pervasive and obvious.
But even cursory investigations will meet the conclusion that corporeality touches every single dimension of human life and so the dialogue unspooled aggressively from this initial pivot. Cartesian dualism, consciousness, evolution, biophysics, spirituality, morality, tribalism, anatomy, the canon of human representation, and cultural attitudes towards the body across time and space all fell under my lens and all felt pertinent to explore.
To elaborate, I offer some disorganized but recurring thoughts that frequently percolated before and throughout the creation of the series:
I’m partial to the view that sees the mind as inseparable from the body. The mind emerges from the body and is an extension of it. The framework that they are distinct and separate doesn't harmonize with my experiences and my studies. What would a mind even be without a body? What would offer it shape, focus, and propulsion? What would it think about? Why would it think at all? The materiality of our existence provides the mold within which our experience extends itself. Even the most logical and sober of cognitive operations have an underlying dopaminergic system that chains each thought to the next. And so when we speak of the dizzying complexity of the mind, epistemology, or phenomenology, we also speak of the body.
If art provides insight into the character and qualities of a zeitgeist, depictions of the human form offer a higher resolution view of the psychological ecosystem in a given time and place. It can be said that the earliest known artistic works depicted the human form, engaging with its environment. I take this to reflect our natural tendency to understand qualia through the depiction of the human form. This presumption maintains its integrity when investigating the various cultures and artistic movements across time. We see this in ancient Greeks' celebration of the ideal, medieval sentiments of the sinfulness and fragility of the body, Renaissance Enlightenment and humanism, the variety and unconventionality of modernism, and the humor and acerbic commentary of postmodernism. Even in cases where the human form is not depicted, such as in Islamic Art or Abstract Expressionism, the absence itself can be seen as a reaction to the form. Ultimately, each generation finds a way to address corporeality in art, and in so doing reflects the character and the psychological attitudes of the time.
As for the aesthetic of the works, preceding my residency I was engaged in a bit of a romance with Cy Twombly’s work. I was specifically taken by how he went about contending with classical history, mythology, and literature. I felt a parity between my pursuit and his, in the sense that we both were engaging with the past and trying to digest and express our attitudes towards it accordingly. And so the airy, scratchy, raw, and primal nature of the works is indebted to his influence.
As is typical of me, I tend to let intuition and the whims of the moment dictate the shape of the paintings and hope that a sort of osmosis takes place wherein the previously established intentions bleed into the canvas.
And so I traveled to Mexico City, arrived at JOHS with the knowledge that I’d have a space to paint, and a month to do so. This series is the result of that.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Makan Negahban is a self-taught, first-generation Iranian-American artist based in Los Angeles. Having written and performed music for the better part of a decade, Makan transitioned to painting and has since been a part of various group and solo shows. His work is broad in technique, composition, and in the application of mediums to make use of the rich array of artistic languages afforded to a contemporary person to better express and explore the vast ecosystem of experience.