Hadi Tabatabai “Black White Sometimes Blue”

Hadi Tabatabai’s Transitional Objects

Hadi Tabatabai is an abstract artist who emigrated from Iran in 1977 at only 13 years old. He finished his BS in Industrial Technology in 1985, and his BFA in painting at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1995.

When one first enters Peter Blake Gallery in Laguna Beach and happens upon Tabatabai’s current solo show “Black White Sometimes Blue,”, a few things happen. The first is that they notice that the works are beautifully minimal and seductive in nature, comprised of just black, white, and sporadically blue.  Numerous comparisons can be made with a keen sense of the balance between light and space. The artist has clearly studied the groundwork laid out by James Turrell and Sol Lewitt, and the compositions of Lee Lozano, Ellsworth Kelly, and Donad Judd.  The key addition he is making is by adding sensibility of the monochrome in line with Charles Hinman and Norio Imai.

Installation view of Hadi Tabatabai “Black White Sometimes Blue”. Courtesy of Peter Blake Gallery.

The second understanding is that though immediately intriguing, it is going to take some time to sit and contemplate these meditative works.  The viewer becomes acutely aware of how the artist’s sensibility deeply interacts with the gallery’s architecture and physical space.  In these times, most dealers will back the walls and try to sell as much product as possible, but Blake and his team understand that art is more than just something to sell, it’s a statement from an artist with a very specific intent, and the level of detail in the installation and lighting goes miles further than other galleries.    

Elegant and nuanced surfaces are created with a balance of acrylic paint combined with thread.  The thread acts as a three-dimensional break, whereas the painted surfaces are smooth and flat.  There are some sculptural works included in the exhibition that show that Tabatabai is thinking past two dimensions by creating depth, shadow, and a mastery of his medium.  Repetition, geometry, and an Eastern philosophy combine here to make for some complicated yet minimal textures.  In addition to utilizing three dimensions, the artist has also created multiple panel works including diptychs, triptychs on both wood and Dibond panels.  There are even a few gridded pieces that are made with acrylic paint on rare earth magnets seemingly reminiscent of I Ching. Many artists understand one specific medium and explore every possibility with it, while Tabatabai covers a broad spectrum of materials, keeping control and his touch to everything he works with.    

Installation view of Hadi Tabatabai “Black White Sometimes Blue”. Courtesy of Peter Blake Gallery.

The works feel dense with tight and neat hard edges, but they maintain equilibrium of form and color similar to Agnes Martin.  The artist maintains a tighter control of color and always keeps to a straight edge.  Meticulously created in what one would presume is a meditative like trance, the artist keeps a sense of harmony throughout the body of work for the show, and the viewer is consistently challenged for more attention and a longer glance.   

The standout work is “Transitional Spaces”, a 84 x 48 x 120-inch floor mounted sculpture that has seven vertical panels of white, black, and varying degrees of grey, which allows natural light to shine through and filter onto the next.  The center panel is a flat black monolith that grounds the work, and provides the balance for all other shades.  There are counterbalancing geometric shapes on the other six threaded panels, which play with the eye, and allows for a 360° view that confronts and demands attention.  It is a combination of bold and delicate, which is something that many struggle to achieve.   

Installation view of Hadi Tabatabai “Black White Sometimes Blue”. Courtesy of Peter Blake Gallery.

Tabatabai’s work can be found in the collections of The Achenbach Foundation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Delaware Art Museum, the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Colby College Museum of Art, and numerous others.

Peter Blake Gallery has a 25-year history of identifying and promoting the next major artists.  We recommend spending time soaking in some of Tabatabai’s luxurious pieces while you can.  They will soon be in every major museum, and will be out of reach for most collectors.