The title of Kamrooz Aram and Iman Issa’s Lives of Forms, and the work included in it, is not inspired by French art historian Henri Focillon’s 1934 study Vie des formes, as far as I know. Yet after exploring this kempt trove of paintings, sculptures, and displays, installed in separate galleries devoted to each artist, the art-history geek in me found hope in Focillon’s claim that formal relationships within and among artworks order and serve as a metaphor for the universe. In this universally chaotic period, with this astute artist pairing, curators Silvia Franceschini and Tim Roerig kindle still-combustible frictions between aesthetics and politics by exquisitely accentuating form in relation to the content it conveys.
Lives of Forms asserts that aesthetic form is always imbricated in the socio-political realities of historical moments. The space in which the artists’ works overlap is at a threshold atop the central staircase, just outside the gallery entrance. There sits a white, ring-shaped bench where you can listen to a disembodied text-to-speech software-generated voice deliver Issa’s looping sound piece The Revolutionary (2010). While doing so, you can gaze toward or away from an interior portico in which Aram’s trim collage of a ceramic vessel on raw and painted canvas, Andata (Luster on Blue Glaze) (2021), hangs on an expanse of crimson-painted wall delimited by white pilasters, the inside edges of which he has crisply decorated with a shade of mossy green that corresponds with the painted collage. Aram and Issa underscore the temporal and spatial dynamics of form: this specific arrangement of works produces a sensory convergence that divides the attention and highlights aspects of architect Francesca Torzo’s museum renovation.
Once inside, the formal relationships between the artists’ works shift from direct encounter to a telepathically subtle exchange of poised sensibilities. From the white rooms occupied by Issa you can glimpse Aram’s polychromatic painting, sculpture, and collage, just as you can catch the glint of Issa’s glass, metal, and polished wood surfaces from Aram’s rooms. The artists compose elements and configure the space in and around their work to operate as images, and it’s striking how the exhibition design of “Lives of Forms” lavishly generates more. Issa’s displays are set at a short distance from each wall, so as not be circled around. Aram frames some of his work with painted walls, the various colors of which can be seen through painted arched doorways.