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GAlleries | Cate McQuaid

At Gallery Kayafas, art from Iranian women

“The Bride” from Roya Farassat’s “Menagerie” series.PETER SCHNEIDER

The art is understated in “Echo,” at Gallery Kayafas. You have to get close to it to see. These artists, all Iranian women, practice restraint to express notions of the dark, sacred, and internal. Some highlight female qualities that are disowned, feared, or mocked in patriarchal societies.

Curator Azita Moradkhani showcases art that gives form to threats, dreams, and our more animal nature. For instance, Elnaz Javani’s hand-sewn drawings spill over with obsessive red stitching. It overwhelms spindly limbs in “Daily Service.” The red might be blood, or an eruption of feeling, but the intricate stitchery turns what could be messy into finely crafted, sober work.


The rogues gallery of Rorschach-blot insects in Roya Farassat’s spiky and spectral “Menagerie” series is drawn with bleach. That erasure gives them ghostly pallor. Using delicate white marker, Farassat outfits each with humanizing costumes and props. “The Bride” has a lacy ivory skirt and freakishly long arms; “The Gangster” wields rifles. Still, they maintain their sheer, alien bugginess.

Samira Abbassy likewise conflates humans and animals, plainly, in brown paint on blank white grounds. “Mythological Creature (Snake),” a coiled reptile with a human head, looks placidly at us, its fuzzy hair seeded with eyes. The basic palette and the cool reserve of Abbassy’s characters give them peculiar power – as if they are assessing us, not the other way around.

Her sculptural assortment “Conference of the Birds” references a mystical poem written in 1177 by Farid ud-Din Attar. Each bird embodies a human fault. They’re a frightening feathery group, their human faces filled with yearning, fear, and greed – yet they’re also strangely endearing.

Armita Raafat’s wall sculptures, pale and tinged with pigment, resemble intricate stalactites. Inside, niches and patterned mirrors suggest these are not caves, but ancient buildings haunted by the past.

There’s more, including Maryam Hoseini’s paintings, which cleverly flatten and distort figures so they function as design elements while holding onto their humanity. “Echo,” for all its quietude, sometimes has explosive force.


Samira Abbassy’s “Mythological Creature (Snake)”Jeanette May


At Gallery Kayafas, 450 Harrison Ave., through July 8. 617-482-0411,