Review: Nadia Waheed “A Strange Icarus” at Nicodim, Los Angeles

Nadia Waheed
Biography, 2023 oil on canvas
182.88h x 472.44w cm
72h x 186w in

Like Icarus, artist Nadia Waheed seems to be testing how far the body can go. In her solo show “A Strange Icarus” that opened at Nicodim Los Angeles last week, the works considers paintings as portals, as the artist likes to self describe. They are openings that disrupt our understanding of time and space.

In “Eye of the World,” a self-portrait, Waheed looks back at the viewer while holding a tiny eyeball. In front of her, an idyllic landscape of a waterfall with a rainbow is severed by a warped tunnel vision view of blues and greens leading towards a black hole. The artist has either blinded the viewer, or freed them from the constraints of a set time and place.

In “The Swan,” the top half of a body is twisted away from us, entering from a black hole, it hovers above a dark blue landscape of a lone tree on a quiet shore. Waheed’s portals, disquieting yet primal, portray the burden of the internet age, the distressing detachment of the body from the mind. Through the dissolution of boundaries, we can no longer be sure of where we are. Time and place are not fixed.

The answer to where we are, is held within the body. Waheed viscerally ties the body to its environment, rather than simply setting the subject in a location. This is most clear in “Biography,” a self-portrait in which Waheed asks us to consider the body in three parts: the skeleton, the nervous system, and the flesh. Ribbons of the nervous system and flesh are tied to the bare tree behind the skeleton. Are they three separate entities occupying the same place and time? Or are they the same being experiencing three separate points in time?

Though Waheed references the Renaissance-era sketches of the body, like those of Da Vinci, this tripartite work also invokes the omniscience of the Holy Trinity. Waheed asks of the young brown woman’s body those same questions which have been demanded of that three parted god. In this portal we are left wondering where exactly it is that the mind ends and the body begins.