Hayv Kahraman

Born 1981 in Baghdad, Iraq. Lives and works in Los Angeles.

Hayv Kahraman’s work explores the transformation of agency undergone by the colonial subject. Her figures are placed in seemingly impossible poses akin to circus performers or contortionists, attracting the voyeuristic gaze through an eroticisation and fetishisation of the ‘other’. Yet their faces stare plainly back at us; the gaze is tolerated. This interplay of gazes allows for the subjects to be both looked at and to look back at, subverting the coloniser’s power, and calling attention to the dehumanisation of the colonised. Kahraman’s freak show acts, like immigrants and refugees, occupy a space of both invisibility and visibility - they are relegated to certain subsections of society and ignored, while remaining naturally visible. Though her figures are vulnerable, they present themselves deliberately, showing that otherness is presented as a construct and not a given.

Kahraman’s recent solo exhibitions include Gut Feelings, The Mosaic Rooms, London (2022); Touch of Otherness, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2022); Not Quite Human: Second Iteration, Pilar Corrias, London (2020); Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design, Honolulu, HI (2019); De La Warr Pavilion, Sussex, UK (2019); Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, California (2018); and Contemporary Art Museum St, Louis, St. Louis, Missouri (2017). Other recent group exhibitions include Reflections: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, British Museum, London (2021); Blurred Bodies, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose (2021); New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley (2021); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2019); ICA Boston (2019); and MASS MoCA, North Adams, (2019). Kahraman’s work is in several important international collections including the British Museum, London, UK; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, California, US; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), California, US; Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, US; The Rubell Family Collection, Florida, US; The Barjeel Art Foundation Sharjah, UAE; MATHAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art Doha, Qatar; Pizzuti Collection of Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, US; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, US; Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, US.

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