Half Ass: Lara Nasser’s Full Frontal Cultural Dissonance
Lara Nasser’s solo exhibition Half Ass at Meredith Rosen Gallery is in fact, half assed but not in the traditional sense of the phrase. That is, it explores cross-cultural identities of those who straddle multiple cultures and oftentimes find themselves not fitting the prescribed notions of either one, instead forging their own "half ass" identity. For Nasser, a Lebanese-American, it is the ongoing difficultly of not being “Arab enough” or “American enough.”
The exhibition of painting, sculpture and an interactive video installation is a wry and assertive exploration of the dichotomies of East and West, Islam and Christian, as well as, Male and Female. Nasser pulls popular imagery from secular and sacred sources such as amateur Muslim pornography, Lebanese television and religious iconography.
In the main gallery, a painted assortment of screen-grab compositions, extreme close-ups, Jesus silhouettes and pendulous breasts illustrate the sociocultural confusion fueled by both dislocation and turning to the Internet for visual answers. These paintings provide the perfect setup for Nasser’s incisive video installation EDBTZ or Uncausing the Cause where a mustachioed fortune teller waits expectantly (with a few intermittent yawn breaks) in a neon pink room flanked with palm trees. The viewer is given the options to press “Who?” or “What?” and the Zoltar-esque fortune teller responds with arbitrary statements such as “I am not a language,” that highlights cultural disconnection between East and West.
The pageantry of maleness and the perceived authority it instills is a recurring theme. Nasser dons a beard as the pseudo authority psychic, and thrice over portrays herself as Jesus. For Nasser, maleness is both challenged and coveted.
Cultural disconnect hides in plain sight in some of the artwork titles. Reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s bearded Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q. that translates from French to “she is hot in the ass,” “EDBTZ” is actually an Arabic pun that translates to “my hand is up my bum.” Meanwhile, in the sculptural pieceEDBTZ or Next Time You Should______ the hand gesture is a khod and for all intents and purposes means, “get fucked.” As a rotating sculpture, the work flips off everything and everyone in the room, as one does when they are Half Ass.
Lara Nasser’s Half Ass will be on view through August 18, 2018 at Meredith Rosen Gallery.