The Los-Angeles-based painter takes laughter seriously.
Tala Madani’s paintings and digital animations dismantle mainstream images of masculinity with their playfully subversive treatment of the male figure. Clad in underwear or sleepwear, her macho subjects are depicted in absurd situations that often involve bodily functions, suggesting that even these private moments are shared. “I think laughter is incredibly serious,” says the Tehran-born, Los Angeles–based artist, 32, who gained critical acclaim last year when she had a solo show at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet. “Jokes and laughter are a way of opening up your subconscious.” Her recent paintings feature original illustrations from Peter and Jane, a popular series of children’s books that depict gender roles along traditional lines. (Madani used them to learn how to read English as a child in Iran.) The children appear in the same frame with Madani’s men, irreverently combining a prescribed order with loose freedom. Next up for her is “Made in L.A. 2014,” the Hammer Museum’s biennial, which runs June 15 through September 7.