Reality Show

Solo Exhibition by Zeehan Wazed

Zeehan Wazed,  Modern Mythology , 2019 (Oil, acrylic, pastel, and spray paint on canvas, 60”H x 48”W)

Zeehan Wazed, Modern Mythology, 2019 (Oil, acrylic, pastel, and spray paint on canvas, 60”H x 48”W)

Press Release

ABXY presents:

LOCATION: ABXY Lower East Side | 9 Clinton Street | New York, NY 10002
@zeehanwazed | @abxyles | | Artsy


(New York, NY) ABXY is pleased to announce Reality Show a solo exhibition by ZEEHAN WAZED. Reality Show marks the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. It will be on view from November 14 – January 15, 2020. For this exhibition, Wazed presents new work in painting, sculpture, and creative new media, including a series of paintings activated by Augmented Reality.  

Like déjà vu through an Instagram filter, the works in this exhibition summon the suspicion we’ve seen them before in a dream (or was it on screen?) In each piece, Wazed blends fact and fiction, figuration and abstraction, fantasy and nightmare to create images that appear like snapshots of the contemporary subconscious. On this psychic battleground, hyper-realistic facts and figures sourced from digital news media burst, stretch, and tunnel through glowing tangles of geometric abstraction. Forest fires, warheads, walls, prescription pills, omnipotent eyeballs, creatures now extinct, robots, rubble and rising tides materialize out of rainbow reverie like involuntary hallucinations. What’s uncanny, in fact, is how much of this isn’t a dream. 

In Reality Show, the mercury rises as stakes surge to mythological proportion. Large scale paintings calligraphically connect disparate, yet familiar scenes within canvasses composed like tattooed tapestries. In works like “Hope Floats,” a colossal arm aims a loaded gun towards an innocent victim, while in miniature below an endangered whale rescues a sleeping child from deportation. By juxtaposing reality’s chilling likeness to nightmare with such an impossibly peaceful vision of an actual “Dreamer,” Wazed’s work effectively authenticates the dreadful absurdity of contemporary life. Here - recast in galactic dreamscape - images ripped from the headlines memorialize a world on fire and our resultant anxiety at once. Exposing our inner and outer realities as a contradiction in terms, the artist’s luminous, high-contrast visual language awakens our humanity from the dissociative lullaby of digital media and unmasks the communal isolation produced by its ambient interventions into contemporary life. In an age when the Internet weaves the emperors’ clothes and only the children cry out in disbelief, Wazed’s satirical brand of cyber surrealism reports that if we are collectively unconscious of anything today, it is each other.

Recurring motifs such as hands, eyes, worlds, and wormholes explore themes of individual and collective agency in the human experience at large. In works like “Dating App,” two impressionistically rendered robot hands - one black and one white - extend from opposite corners of the frame. Through vibrant swirls of spray paint and glossy, polychrome cubes in free fall, they reach towards a central, nearly life-like rose. Devoid any human figure, this scene of robotic romance implies a future of love that does not include us at all. By applying historically dissonant modes of painting to distinguish organic from technological matter, the artist symbolizes the mortal difference between emotional and artificial intelligence. As they attempt to connect, these programmed protagonists act out an innate desire for physical touch, but to what end? Unburdened by biology, the survival of our synthetic representation does not require our natural capacity for compassion. Revealing his subjects as hollow imitations of evolutionary tenderness, with “Dating App,” Wazed relates humanity’s unique emotional experience to our collective survival. In the paradoxical euphemism characteristic of Reality Show, the artist suggests and that as we slip from each other’s grasp, so too slips control of our common future.­

With this exhibition Wazed will also debut “Screen Grab,” the first live action Augmented Reality short film. A collaboration between the artist and filmmaker Ambrose Eng, “Screen Grab” stars actress Teresa Ting and tells the story of a nosy couple wandering into the gallery after hours. Shot on Alexa mini using vintage Zeiss lenses, the film was then embedded into a series of paintings within Reality Show. Using the ARTIVIVE app, by scanning a painting in this series with the gallery’s iPad, visitors will be able to unlock the film, which unfolds in two-minute clips across four separate canvasses. On screen, the paintings in “Screen Grab” will appear to come to life.

This exhibition will also include a series of small sculptures in the form hand-painted iPhones.

Read Artist’s Bio

(above) DETAIL, Zeehan Wazed,  Modern Mythology , 2019 (Oil, acrylic, pastel, and spray paint on canvas, 60”H x 48”W)

(above) DETAIL, Zeehan Wazed, Modern Mythology, 2019 (Oil, acrylic, pastel, and spray paint on canvas, 60”H x 48”W)


Artist Statement | Reality Show

“I think what made me stand out as a dancer was the effort I make to blend different styles together. When I dance, I’m trying to move so fluidly, that transitions from one genre to another are almost imperceptible to the audience. From hip-hop to vogue to house to breakdancing – my goal is always to maintain that flow. That’s the same approach I bring to painting. The works in this show incorporate so many different styles and materials, each requiring a different application method, or brush, or drying time. So while I always start with a completely clear vision in my head of how I want the painting to turn out, I had to be extremely thoughtful as I applied layer upon layer of imagery to the works in this show.  

But I’m not just mixing different methods and mediums together for shock value (or to make my life harder) – of course, they each come with a specific set of aesthetic qualities that I’m looking for to express a particular idea, but by blending different styles and forms of expression, I’m also reflecting my approach to our world, and what I’m trying to say with each piece in this show. I believe it takes all kinds, so to speak. And just like us, each style brings its own history, advantages and disadvantages to the work, whether it’s calligraphy, graffiti, abstract art, impressionism, hyperrealism or anything else. For me, both the thrill and the challenge lies in conceiving of how they can all work together to create something almost utopian. A vision of what we could achieve together by discarding antiquated classifications and instead harnessing the power of our variant perspectives to create something bigger and more beautiful than any single element involved. 

The AR is such an exciting part of that for me. I feel that if a picture can say a thousand words, an augmented one can say a million. It works like this - in the show, I have a series of works called Screen Grab. And each of those four paintings has an augmented reality component, so when you hover over one of these pieces with the iPad, on the screen, the painting turns into a video.  The video is actually a short film (also called Screen Grab) that I made with my friend Ambrose Eng. It’s a narrative, live-action short about a nosy couple who wanders into the gallery after hours to take pictures for their Instagram stories. I won’t give it all away, but it’s the first time anyone has used live actors in an augmented reality application like this. And because this work will be presented in the gallery where we filmed it, it’s a pretty meta experience to see it at ABXY.”

- Zeehan Wazed, 2019