Fereydoon Family: Lashing out

Iranian-born artist is a fascinating hyphenate

When my brother and I were little, we had a method for working out our budding anti-social urges. We would use pencil erasers to scratch out the eyeballs of models and politicians in magazines.

Fereydoon Family, whose name suggests an artist collective or cult, is engaged in a comparable expression of sublimated anger in Stepping Blind, his first solo exhibition at Whitespace Gallery in Inman Park. It's only natural that during a time of media and celebrity overload, Family would lash out where he does.

Family's raw material is images culled from magazines, newspapers, advertisements and found photographs. There are painfully awkward head-and-shoulders shots of executives, the kind you'd find in corporate annual reports. In other appropriated images, excessively cheerful models shill for some unnamed product.

Family uses fat swathes of Wite-Out to obscure their faces. With slits and holes left for eyeballs and teeth, the resulting images suggest skeletons – and death. The media relentlessly dwell on youth and beauty, but Family's superimposed skulls speak to another truth behind the brazen grins and haughty remove: that we are united in our propensity to decay and die.

The images are, frankly, scary. They recall the mutated, fleshy monsters of Francis Bacon and anonymous subway graffiti. Erasure of the face is an act of violence, and Family has rightly likened the wrath of his Wite-Out smears to "a scalpel."

The Iranian-born Family joins several other recent examples of artists taking swipes at our media culture. Jeremy Chance, whose paintings are currently on view at Dalton Gallery, also violently obliterates faces. And artist Louise Merlyn, whose work was recently shown in the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center's Talent Show, implants goofy, grinning celebrity faces on top of historical images of events such as the Nuremberg Trials.

In an Atlanta where artists wear many hats – artist/architect, artist/teacher, artist/gallery-owner – Family may be the most fascinating hyphenated artist yet. Family is a professor of physics at Emory. His research area is described as a "simulational and computational approach to condensed matter physics," which is as opaque to me as the art world's vernacular must often seem to outsiders.

Stepping Blind: Fereydoon Family. Through March 29. Whitespace Gallery, 814 Edgewood Ave. Wed.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-688-1892. www.whitespace814.com.

For more images from Stepping Blind, click here.

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