Y.Z. Kami: Works 1985–2018

Skira Editore

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Robert Storr and Laura Cumming
Skira Editore
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Over the past thirty years, Y.Z. Kami has built a resounding oeuvre that spans both portraiture and abstraction, using direct observation, poetic reference, and repeated geometries to create poignant evocations of the sublime. This comprehensive monograph explores the breadth of Kami’s work with over 300 color illustrations, and texts by leading scholars and curators Robert Storr, Laura Cumming, and Elena Geuna. Y.Z. Kami’s large-scale portraits recreate the visceral experience of a face-to-face encounter, suggesting a connection to the presence of each subject. Through a matte, uniform haze, he depicts his subjects with eyes open or closed, gazing forward or looking down. Kami’s focus on each individual’s face reveals an inner life beneath immediate appearancess a feat that is particularly resonant in the context of contemporary portraiture.

Rendered in oil paint on linen, the portraits also recall Byzantine frescoes or Fayum funerary portraits, continuing the art historical quest to locate the unknown and the infinite within material form. In his abstract work, Kami continues this interplay of surface and interior, using forms inspired by architecture, geometry, and poetry. In the Endless Prayers series, prayers and verses in Persian, Hebrew, Arabic, and Sanskrit are cut into rectangular fragments and pasted into mandala formations, their spiraling patterns echoing the repetitive nature of prayer. Comprised of square or rectangular marks arranged in concentric circles, the Dome paintings create tessellated, pulsing voids as if passing from darkness into light.