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Maryam Hoseini's Every Day Abstractions

October 30, 2019

One of six new films from Art21’s fall 2019 programming

How does a painter translate the real into the abstract? From her Brooklyn studio, Maryam Hoseini explores the spaces in between painting and drawing, figuration and abstraction, and the personal experiences embedded in her work and the multiple interpretations viewers can bring to it. As she flips through her pencil drawings and resumes work on an acrylic painting, the artist recounts her early interest in drawing classes and the strong, female art teacher in her native Iran that inspired her. Hoseini’s current work depicts fragmented—often female—bodies floating in abstract, flattened architectural spaces, in suggestive, but open-ended narratives.

With her work shown at major exhibitions around the world, Hoseini explains the concept behind her recently commissioned series of paintings for an exhibition coinciding with the 58th Venice Biennale. A reimagining of the famous 12th-century poem about Laylah and Majnun, Hoseini’s paintings focus on the female character in the legend, a woman who, as the artist puts it, “was banned from speaking and desiring what she really wanted.”

This sense of fear and anxiety, punctuated with strength and humor, pervade Hoesini’s work. The artist tracks the evolution of her style, coming to the conclusion that her choice to depict fragmented, headless bodies and fractured, illegible spaces reflects her “own personal experiences and life as an immigrant and as a person who is not even able to travel to my country and to return to my work and life here in America.”

More information and credits


Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director & Editor: Veena Rao. Cinematography: Veena Rao. Additional Camera: Anne Sofie Norskov and Rafael Salazar. Music: Wesley Powell. Color Correction: Jerome Thélia. Sound Design & Mix: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Animation: Stephanie Andreou and Andy Cahill. Design & Graphics: Chips. Assistant Editor: Jasmine Cannon. Artwork Courtesy: Maryam Hoseini, Green Art Gallery, and Rachel Uffner Gallery. Thanks: Danielle Brock, Allison Cooper, Cut + Measure, John Elammar, and Alex Laviola. © Art21, Inc. 2019. All rights reserved.

New York Close Up is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Maryam Hoseini

Maryam Hoseini was born in 1988 in Tehran, Iran. After receiving a BA in Graphic Design at Sooreh Art University in Tehran in 2012, she moved to the US, where she simultaneously completed MFA programs at Bard College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In her work, Hoseini layers acrylic paint and pencil drawing to create abstract, highly flattened figures and landscapes that examine the relationship between the body and physical space.

“I’m interested in the space between painting and drawing. That in-between space provides some sort of openness for the viewers’ interpretations.”

Maryam Hoseini