Sea of love and my guy Krishna

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The two artists showing at Gallery Joe are as different as can be, and yet–I ended up thinking about how sexy their work is.

The description is no surprise for the work of Sabeen Raja, whose often humorous Persian miniatures of social interactions express a sensuality in each fine line and often in her subjects. I’ve been looking forward to seeing more of her work ever since she was in “Figure Out,” a group show last spring at Gallery Joe (here’s a link to one of her images from that show). On the other hand, Linn Meyers is one of those monastic mark makers who works with a system, and sexy is not the usual description for this variety of work.

Raja, who is living and working in Pakistan now, was born and raised in Lahore and works in the tradition of Persian miniatures. Sexy subject matter, stories of the Hindu pantheon, and humor are part of that tradition, and Raja brings to it a woman’s point of view and an eye on society’s quirks. She keeps her colors simple–and rich; the drawing, done with a single-hair brush, is dead-on with a satiric edge.

This is a tiny show with tiny work–only six images, each of them around 5 x 4 inches on Wasli paper (the traditional surface for miniatures), but they tackle some big themes.

“I Love Krishna” (top image) gets at the movie-fan and celebrity-worship culture that turns people into gods and generates false notions of friendship and love. It also raises issues about women and their self-images and the expectations of society for the roles that women have as sexual partners–in this case, that partner is a self-portrait.

“I am not White” (image left) goes straight to race and then expands beyond to “Heathers” and any sort of class definitions. The little white cows are a gossipy social clique, and the whole sacred cow/Brahmin bull notion adds another layer. Two of Raja’s other images are of cavorting monkeys who, as human stand-ins, get away with salacious content.

Raja, who was trained in traditional miniature painting in Pakistan, received her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore in 2003. Also in 2003 Raja received The Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA grant award was awarded a full fellowship at Skowhegan.

In sharp contrast to Raja’s narratives are Linn Meyers’ layers of systematic marks that turn into grids that morph into sensuous waves, fabric, the motion of turning pages in moire patterns. I, who always want to put an obstreperous scribble into Minimalist grids, didn’t feel the urge this time.

The enormous diptych, “200448” (right, 6 by 5 1/2 feet) is sexy, the residue of sheets twisted by love-making and the suggestion of bodies in motion. Even the more buttoned-down small pieces, like the book in “20045bc” (left) captures something that happened–a hand or a breeze moving a page. Meyers builds up the work–repetitive dots, lines and color washes on layers of mylar which then interact with eachother to create motion and depth that is greater than the mark-making alone. The richness of the physical layering is impossible to capture in a flat reproduction.

Meyers’ solo shows in 2005 include an exhibition at Margaret Thatcher Projects, in New York and at G Fine Art, Washington, D.C., which is where she lives and works. She was in the 2000 Pittsburgh Biennial and is the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner foundation grant.

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