We all gripe over our crazy weekends, running here, there and everywhere, but Aakash Nihalani has perhaps outdone us. The Brooklyn-based artist traveled to Southampton mid-week to begin installing at both the Parrish Art Museum and Tripoli Gallery. Driving back and forth between Water Mill and Southampton, always an ordeal, was now an experience in classic Hamptons traffic, on possibly the grandest scale yet, thanks to two major art fairs, the new one-week renters, and the numerous galas taking place on the weekend of July 13. Burning the midnight oil in the midst of this, Aakash successfully pulled off two very impressive site-specific projects.
On the South side of the new Herzog & de Meuron-designed Parrish Art Museum, visible from Montauk Highway, Aakash used white tape to create overlapping rectangular forms, resulting something reminiscent of toppling dominoes, blown over by wind from the East. On the Northern exterior wall, he created low-rise boxes (or, to get technical, a diamond-shape surrounded by two adjoining rectangles on either side)–the forms created by black tape. The box closest to ground level is the largest, and they diminish in size as they make their way up; creating the illusion of depth on the flat surface of the concrete wall. Those who flocked to the Parrish’s annual Midsummer Gala on July 13 had an opportunity to get up close to the work and take part in the altered view.
Aakash is forging his own territory in –isms, but certainly takes part in street art, op art and modular art, with a touch of minimalism in his clean lines and restrictive palette of black, white and fluorescents. As a street artist, he’s taken to sidewalks, walls and patios from New York City to New Delhi, using his tape to distort perspective and/or play around with existing forms. His work extends the dialogue of Frank Stella’s pulsating squares, Sol LeWitt’s self-imposed rules and mathematical precision, and Jasper Johns’ Usukuki print series, in which a linear motif is replicated and rotated.
The longer you look at Aakash’s work the more you see. For his current exhibition at Tripoli Gallery, Aaranged, he created several tape pieces, which adhere directly to the gallery walls, as well as new tile works. The tile works are made up of modules that can be re-arranged (hence the exhibition title)–allowing for endless compositions. Each module in this instance is a square foot tile with magnetic backing and a surface of bright white paint and black silk-screened lines (slightly wider than the tape he uses). As you begin to look for patterns, you realize that your innate drive for rationality is thrown off by a chance rotation of one of the modules; as if the artist is toying with our notions of order and chaos. As a result, none of Aakash’s works are static—rather they are in motion.
Aakash writes, “All my geometric work is based/derived off of a vocabulary of isometric forms represented/ created from squares and parallelograms. I then take these shapes, or modules, and create different compositions, or variations. As Sol LeWitt said, ‘For each work of art that becomes physical, there are many variations that do not.’ The works in the show are about modularity, and the variations and compositions created by arrangement guided by rational and irrational rules.”
No stranger to the East End, in 2012 Aakash Nihalani was awarded a residency at the Willem de Kooning studio in East Hampton. Adhering to his neon colors, tape and modules, he created outdoor works in high-contrast to the trees and grass of the backyard. In situ photographs can be seen at aakashnihalani.com.
On view at Tripoli Gallery, 30A Jobs Lane, Southampton, through August 11. Outdoor works at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. Visit tripoligallery.com; parrishart.org.
Published in Dan’s Papers, July 22, 2013.