Panni Malekzadeh - Love Me Till It Hurts


Opening July 5th- August 11 2012
Reception 6-9pm, July 5th

Freight and Volume Gallery
530 West 24th st.
New York, NY 10011




Panni Malekzadeh makes beautiful, complicated portraits of contemporary Persian women coming of age.  What age, exactly, they are coming into is not entirely clear.  The young women she depicts, mostly based on her close friends and family, are clothed in traditional, period-piece costumes, as though they suddenly woke up in a strange land and time, and are seeking clues and clarity to their sexual and cultural identity.  They appear filled with an abundant mixture of embarrassment, sexual hunger, shame, confusion, delight and dread.

Panni, a recent grad of the New York Academy of Art’s MFA program, is adept at realistic renderings of these women and their costumes, but adds a strong sense of fantasy and illusion to her work.  The portraits, simultaneously funny and serious, are fraught with tension, discomfort and idiosyncrasy, from the acute lighting, to the models’ odd expressions, to her choice of neon “tags” superimposed on the figures in the manner of thought bubbles.  There’s also a soft quality to her portrayals, a style slightly out of focus, recalling 70’s soft-porn magazines.  Indeed, Panni states that when she was 12 or 13 she discovered her father’s Playboys in a closet and kept it secret. She describes this as “a childhood memory that most boys have.” She became fascinated with Playboy magazines, in particular with how the women were posed and altered to appear how Playboy deemed women should be - at once artificial and perfect and ultimately sad.  Because of her conservative upbringing (she was the child of an arranged, traditional Persian marriage) things like Playboy were very taboo; she wasn’t able to talk about sex and sensuality.  Ultimately this resulted in a determination and desire towards uninhibited expression.  Panni still collects vintage Playboy magazines and references the same controlled, manufactured, “directed” kind of feeling of the Playboy bunnies when she produces photo shoots on which her paintings are based.   The women, while classically clothed, appear free and suggestive, in stark contrast to the repressed women of her past.

In addition to the portraits, Panni presents a series of pink dollhouses in an antique wallpapered, “bedroom” setting in which to view the work. She explores Role Playing, the tug of war between girliness and adulthood in her mis-en-scenes, drawing parallels between ponies and unicorns, dollhouses and whips, lingerie and bondage, virgins and whores.  There is fetishistic quality to her painted worlds, where she leaps quickly and easily between generations, from one culture to another, from fantasy to reality.   In a work such as “Love Me Till It Hurts” she flirts with the viewer in a coy, playful manner, with undertones of vulnerability and danger, toying with that fine line between passion and violence, pleasure and pain.  These are provocative, dazzling works by a young painter full of imagination and craft. 

Panni received her BFA from Otis College, her MFA from NYAA, has been published in the “Grafuck” anthology of erotic art, and shown in numerous solo and group shows in NY and LA.  She lives and works in New York City. This is her first exhibition @ Freight+Volume.

Please join us for a midsummer reception to celebrate the work at Freight+Volume, 530 W 24th St in Chelsea, on Thursday, July 5th from 6-9pm.  For more information please contact Nick Lawrence by email ( or phone (212-691-7700).