Amir Zaki: Southern California
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Amir Zaki is a practicing artist living in Southern California. He received his MFA from UCLA in 1999 and has been regularly and actively exhibiting photographs and videos nationally and internationally since. Zaki has had solo shows at the Mak Center Schindler House in West Hollywood, ACME gallery in Los Angeles, Perry Rubenstein Gallery in New York, James Harris Gallery in Seattle, and Roberts and Tilton in Los Angeles. He has been included in many group exhibitions in significant venues including The California Biennial: 2006 at the Orange County museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Andreas Grimm Gallery in Munich, Germany, Harris Lieberman Gallery in New York, Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago, the California Museum of Photography, and the San Jose Museum of Art. Zaki´s work is part of numerous public and private collections across the country including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, UCLA Hammer Museum, the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington, the Orange County museum of Art, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Recently, he has been included in a Phaidon Press anthology of contemporary photography called ´Vitamin Ph´ and contributed to LACMA´s Words Without Pictures

Zaki has an ongoing interest in the rhetoric of authenticity, as it is associated with photography as an indexical media. Simultaneously, he is deeply invested in exploring digital technology’s transformative potential to disrupt that assumed authenticity. While this may initially sound like a standard and tired postmodern trope, his interest is not in utilizing digital trickery as illustration to undermine a photograph’s veracity. In fact, Zaki often creates hybridized photographs that carefully use the vocabulary of the documentary style so that the viewer’s belief in its veracity remains intact, at least initially. He construct scenes that are somewhat off-register, ‘out of key’, and ever so slightly faux. He often uses the architectural landscape of Southern California as a subject, as it seems particularly appropriate to his process. This is largely because, either through media myth, reality or a combination of the two, the architecture and surrounding landscape in Southern California is itself an evolving bastardization of styles and forms, in other words a pastiche.

Southern California is home to a collision of high modernist ideals, suburban McMansions, high-rise density, endless asphalt grids, deserts, mountains, beaches, Los Angeles urbanism, Inland Empire sprawl, Orange Curtain conservatism, the Crystal Cathedral, and the Integratron. It should be made clear that although Zaki is fascinated and inspired by this architectural and cultural entropy, his intention is not to record, replicate or simply document a preexisting postmodern pastiche. More precisely, his work begins with the familiar, by looking at objects, structures and locations that are often pedestrian and banal. And by capitalizing on the presumed veracity that photographs continue to command, along with the transformative, yet invisible digital alterations he employs, his images depict structures that that aspire to be added to the list of the hodge-podge built landscape that creates the Southern California mythology.
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