"I spent over 7 years in art school but graffiti taught me more about art than anything else. Working with a limited palette, color theory, composition, and Problem solving are all essential to graffiti. I think of Graffiti more as a form of folk art than anything else, But it completely affected my worldview."
With his show "Worlds Apart" Amir H. Fallah, the Los Angeles painter, describes his work as "An ongoing exploration of issues of Immigration, borders, and the right for a better life for all people regardless of where they were born." Fallah's work in one word, captivating. His objective is to turn traditional portraits into more descriptive essays of his subjects, while excluding facial features as it says little about who we are. In his new work, Fallah confronts a subject matter he is all too eager to put front and center, the current status and rhetoric in the American view of immigration. We had the opportunity to talk to the amazingly talented artist and discussed his art and his influences of growing up as an immigrant kid in America.
Talk to us about your upcoming show “Worlds Apart,” why is this show important now?
My show "World's Apart" is an ongoing exploration of issues of Immigration, borders, and the right for a better life for all people regardless of where they were born. As a refugee and immigrant myself I'm deeply troubled by the racist and xenophobic stance that the US government has taken since Trump took office. America embraced my family and I when we came here in the 1980s and I'm certain that we've contributed positively to America. My father started a successful business and has hired hundreds of people. I have also started several businesses that have hired fellow Americans, paid taxes, and supported our economy. I'm a big believer that America is a nation of immigrants and stand firmly against Trumps version of an America that is only for those of paler complexion. America is at its best when all our cultures mix, coexist, and intermingle. This show is exhibited at Dio Horia Gallery in Mykonos, Greece. My hope is to bring some of the stories and images into the international dialogue surrounding immigrant rights, a topic that is relevant across the world.
You’ve talked about the idea of identity in your work. Why is excluding facial features an element in how you identify your subjects?
The face tells you little about who someone is. I am very dark skinned for an Iranian. My wife is Puerto Rican but looks Irish. Our interracial 4 year old son looks Caucasian. What we physically look like means nothing to who we really are. I'm trying to take the history of portraiture and turn it on its head. How can we reinvent a more true way of describing someone? Can the objects we surround ourselves with symbolically describe who we are, where we came from, and where we are going?
We know you started your art career as a street artist, how has that experience helped in developing what you are working on now?
I would make the distinction that I began as a graffiti artist, which is very different than what we consider street art these days. I spent over 7 years in art school but graffiti taught me more about art than anything else. Working with a limited palette, color theory, composition, and problem solving are all essential to graffiti. I think of graffiti more as a form of folk art than anything else but it completely affected my worldview. I owe much of what I do now to the lessons I learned while painting graffiti with friends in the middle of the night.
What was the last thing you saw that inspired you to create?
I'm on a two-week residency in Mykonos via Dio Horia. We took a day trip to Delos Island, which is covered in ancient Greek ruins. I was incredibly inspired buy the mosaics and structures on the island. They will certainly creep into my work one way or another.
We know you are a documentary film buff. What should I watch next?
The Devil Versus Daniel Johnston, Free Solo, Searching For Sugarman, Icarus, Knock Down The House, Cocaine Cowboys...I could go on and on. When in doubt watch a documentary. Reality is always better than fiction.
How has living in Los Angeles impacted your work?
I love Los Angeles. It has the perfect mix of culture, space, and nature. You can have it all. Beaches, hiking, deserts, comedy, art, music...It's a city that lets you go at your own pace. This great mix seeps its way into the work in all sorts of ways. The fact that I can have a decent home and space to work is essential. If I lived in NYC, I'd be living in a shoebox and spending double. I can't imagine living anywhere else?
What do you listen to in the studio?
In the studio I mostly listen to comedy podcasts or podcasts on the Gimlet and NPR networks. When I do listen to music, I listen to a wide range of music from old school hardcore punk to 90s hip-hop. Some of the newer stuff I'm into is The XX, Future Islands, Umi Cooper, Lana Del Rey, The Primals, Beach House, and Warpaint.
Would you rather have super strength or be able to read minds?
Read minds. Knowledge is power.
If you could have a conversation with any artist dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I'd love to sit down with Peter Doig and Chris Ofili and talk painting for a few hours. Two incredible painters who happen to be friends. Ofili was a major early influence of mine. Someone I deeply respect as a painter.
Where is the best place to see art in Los Angeles?
I’m a bit biased but Shulamit Nazarian Los Angeles is doing great things in LA. I also love the Hammer Museum and MOCA. My friends at The Pit are always doing wonderful shows as well.
Images by: Amir H. Fallah Studio
To see the artist's work go to: