Fields of Dreams: The Paintings of Davood Roostaei

341-B South Avenue 17, Los Angeles, California 90031
Sep 22, 5 PM - 10 PM — ends Oct 02, 2023
Fields of Dreams: The Paintings of Davood Roostaei

A Solo Exhibition Curated by Peter Frank

Wonzimer Gallery
341-B S Avenue 17 Los Angeles 90031
Opening: 5 pm - 10 pm / Friday, September 22, 2023
Dates of Show: September 22 – October 2, 2023, Open 7 Days a week, 12-7 pm

Davood Roostaei was born in Malayer, Iran, southwest of Tehran, in 1959.
Roostaei studied at Tehran’s Academy of Fine Arts in the late 1970s, until the
Islamic Revolution upended Iranian creative life. Opposed to the new order and,
as a pacifist, to its war with Iraq, Roostaei turned to the overtly political art form of
graffiti – and was imprisoned for two years, under notoriously harsh conditions,
for anti-regime activities.

In 1984, soon after his release, Roostaei gained asylum in Germany, ultimately
settling in Hamburg. German art was dominated at the time by neo-
expressionism, specifically die neue Wilde. This expansive style, driven by
impulse and engagement, suited Roostaei perfectly, and he quickly developed
his own approach, at once gestural and depictive. As he plied and evolved his
style, he was able to conflate his infatuation with paint with his fascination with
modern life – particularly as of 1986, when he abandoned brushes and began
painting with his fingers, a technique he relied on for the rest of his career. In
1990, Roostaei declared his artistic approach “Cryptorealism,” acknowledging the
most important conceptual factor in his picture-making: his seemingly abstract
explosions of pigment in fact grew out of figural compositions, ranging in theme
from the mythical to the quotidian, the heroic to the hilarious, and these figural
forms were subsequently hidden beneath the skeins of pure paint apparent to us.
Cryptorealism, derived from the Greek term “crypto” meaning hidden or secret, is
a manifestation of obscured meaning, revealed only through layered imagery, the
grasp of which requires active participation by the observer.

After a decade and a half in Hamburg, during which he enjoyed prominence in
artistic and social circles, Roostaei found he had exhausted his dialogue with
German and European art (and politics) and relocated again in 2000, this time to
Los Angeles. If Germany provided Roostaei political asylum, America provided
him spiritual and perceptual freedom; here, his void was his own. California
indulged Roostaei by leaving him alone as much as by paying him attention. In
the wake of COVID, however, Roostaei and his enthusiasts felt the need to
reclaim his audience. He was painting boldly and furiously and gaining fresh
attention when, in early 2023, he was suddenly overtaken by cancer.

As he intended, Davood Roostaei left behind a legacy of vigor and intensity; and
as he had hoped, its reintroduction begins where he has left off, in the middle of
Los Angeles’ creative cauldron.

Peter Frank