A sense of intimate, brutal absurdity suffuses Tirdad Hashemi’s recent work, much of it made following the killing of Mahsa Amini last September in the artist’s native Iran and the subsequent eruption of ongoing protest against the country’s theocratic government. Titled after a nursery rhyme from Hashemi’s childhood that is sung when mourning a loved one, her exhibition “The Trapped Lullabies” is flooded with the hypnotic sounds of Nacer Ahmadi’s synths and a voice-over of Hashemi reading a poetic incantation by Ali Farid. A rusted detention-center bed and a pile of burned clothes complete a dramatic mise-en-scène tinged with a perverse domesticity.
Not long after finding asylum in France, Hashemi and her partner, Soufia Erfanian, began a series of works on paper titled “The Blue Poisoning,” 2022, whose icy Drano hue spills across illustrations in pastel and pencil. Rueful details crystalize. In Pretending that everything is fine, for example, a sketch of a cocktail glass filled with olives is thrust into the foreground between a crippled dog and its female owner, disfigured with a sobering smudge of red. Another series of small works from 2022, this one bearing the exhibition’s title, is leaned against the wall, forcing viewers to hunch down at the anguished subjects: nude figures contoured with finger-applied sand; evoked is a cemetery, the horror of being buried alive. For Cellule 16, 2023, Hashemi spreads an expanse of charred earth over a hyperrealistic painting of a prison cell by Ramin Parvin, part of a community of exiled Iranian artists in Berlin. The canvas gapes with a vertiginous sense of space. We join the artists on the edge of a precipice.