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Tala Madani at MOCA Geffen


There is definitely a shock factor to Tala Madani’s mid-career retrospective at MOCA Geffen — bodily fluids, large twisting phalluses, and plenty of excrement abound. In Madani’s hands, swaths of paint stand in for more base materials. The subject matter also delves into the taboo: men gawk at young girls, or bend over to display their backsides, and mothers are made entirely out of feces. 

Yet, aside from these squeamish tableaus, the artist has a way of using our most base impulses to speak to larger socio-political conventions. The hoards of horny men Madani depicts might stand in for the patriarchy at large, while the Shit Mom series, in which a mother is made entirely of brown viscous paint, might stand in for the pressures and inequities that get lobbed onto motherhood. 

One particularly insightful painting in the series depicts a gloopy, dripping mother holding a clean white baby, and the contrast between their forms and the Biblical reference to Madonna and Child is cutting. Madani also animates her painted scenes, creating short, looping videos in which her characters come to life to play out obscene and repetitive tasks. The paintings set the stage, and the animations make the work feel like cautionary tales of our modern era. 

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On view: Sept 10, 2022 – Feb 19, 2023

Photo: Installation view of Wallpaper with Shit Mom (2022) as part of the exhibition Tala Madani: Biscuits, September 10, 2022–February 19, 2023 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Photo by Jeff McLane.