Hamishi Farah’s Antagoni

Courtesy of the artist and Château Shatto. Photographs by Ed Mumford.
Review by Molly Cranston

Hamishi Farah’s new solo show, ‘Antagoni’, currently on view at LA’s Chateau Shatto, considers facades, and the social phenomena of Blackwashing and Blackface. Consisting of two dissecting bodies of portraiture – five portraits realized in studio and one produced by Rachel Dolezal, who was commissioned to realize five self-portraits – the exhibition seems ruled by glitching narratives, colliding with a ‘supercharged semiosis’.

The studio portraits depict faces in various stages of obscurity; deep violet hues sear across light-skinned facial tones, a veil reminiscent of translucent tights, parodies of wrestling masks. Symbols float in and out of focus, seemingly contextless and juddering: Jesus, a bee, the American flag. Farah materializes a sense of tangled complexity, subtracting and adding impossible scraps of backgrounds. The paintings themselves feel as though they are in a state of transformation.

The fabricated self-portraits of Rachel Dolezal, ‘the self-styled trans-racial American figure,’ commune with Farah’s works depicting figures with covered faces. Farah plays with the power of representational portraiture and metaphor as a means of dissecting and questioning Blackness within political and iconographic representation. 

The paradoxical realms of persecution and idolisation exist at once, uneasily. With this exhibition, Farah articulates nuance and surreality of so-called post-racial societies as an incoherent soup of parts. In the last paragraph of his exhibition statement Farah says:

“During its metamorphosis the butterfly caterpillar does not construct their chrysalis, it sheds its skin and face and legs to become it. Inside the chrysalis enzymes break down the organs and internal systems to become a kind of soup. Instead of the butterfly, the story can end there. A chrysalis to hold rage and love until the end of analogy.”

Joey, 2020
Acrylic and permanent marker on linen 17 x 13 in / 43.2 x 33 cm

Now Then, 2020
Acrylic and volcanic rock on linen 30 x 37 in / 76.2 x 94 cm

Argryia Blue (the Ghost of Paul Karason), 2020 Acrylic and volcanic rock on linen, 36.75 x 27.13 in / 93.4 x 68.9 cm

RACHEL DOLEZAL, Motherhood, 2020, Charcoal on paper, 14.75 x 19.5 in

RACHEL DOLEZAL, Banished, 2020Charcoal on paper, 18.75 x 15 in