in New York, NY / United States
12.04.2024 - 11.05.2024 00:00
Sanam Khatibi - We Wait Until Dark

P·P·O·W is pleased to present “We Wait Until Dark”, Sanam Khatibi’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Featuring a new series of monumental figurative works, large scale still lives, and intimate memento moris, this exhibition epitomizes and expands upon the unique atemporal and allegorical vocabulary Khatibi has developed over the last decade.

People who devote their lives to art can often cite an event that placed them on their destined path. Among the earliest memories Belgian artist Sanam Khatibi recalls is the day she discovered a book on Hieronymous Bosch left out on the table by her mother. She was five. That one might advance from consuming the rapturous reproductions of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” at such a young age to painting expansive, primal scenes of a troubled Paradise is one excellent example of artistic “fate.”

In Khatibi’s paintings and sculptures, the veil between desire and restraint, life and death, and the natural and spirit worlds proves thin. Again and again, the artist returns to t­he figure of a nude goddess navigating a verdant, savage land beyond the protective scrim of “civilization.” In the absence of technology, politics, bills, e-mail, and even clothing, she exhibits her most feral qualities for survival: devouring, eating, attacking, killing, and hunting. Khatibi’s subjects are perennial (desire, seduction, domination, submission), and her references to allegorical forms are extensive (17th-century Dutch still life vanitas, the motif of Death and the Maiden, antiquarian amulets, and anthropological relics), all channeled into displays of human folly and erotic obsession.

Paintings by Khatibi are full of expressions of voracity: for sex, earthly delights, experience, and transcendence, and what happens when you tempt the devil. In “Where our love once lay, a dark and tortured jungle grew” (2023), a fey skeleton seizes a beautiful maiden by the hair under a lightening blue sky – a grotesque quid pro quo that recalls Lucas Cranach the Elders’ “The Ill-Matched Couple” (1553); or even Kawanabe Kyōsai’s “Hell Courtesan” (1831–1889). Decrepit and aging, his skull sprouts strawlike strands of hair, the last indication of vitality. In “Open Season” (2024), an Amazonian goddess places an intimate offering of amulets and animal sacrifices before a pool of water. There is a sense of reckless abandon: a human skull, a pomegranate cracked open, blood spilling over the cerulean earth – a feast for ravenous souls.

Khatibi’s Eden is repeatedly transformed into a Bosch-like tale of passionate, potentially fatal encounters (a locus amoenus turned upside down into a “locus terribilis”). In “A beautiful figure without a tongue” (2024), the skeletal personification of Death reappears. A maniacal grin spreads across his decaying face as he slinks away, clutching an ornate vase to his chest. Are these the spoils of Death to be hoarded in a cavernous underworld?

Throughout the exhibition, Khatibi faithfully intertwines two genres of painting (figurative landscape and still life), leaving seemingly ancillary details from one scene to reveal as sharp memento mori in another – as in “Overnight Black Aphids Appeared, growing on the tips of the Sophora Sun King” (2023). Here, the reappearance of skulls, amulets, and small creatures sans personnages gives the impression of a romantic sojourn set apart from the larger narrative. Each of Khatibi’s objects pulses into realism with near-scientific observation, appearing magnificent and fragile, possibly even forbidden. Placed against a velvety black ground, they fall into shadow as if pulled amorously into the afterlife.

Lola Kramer

Sanam Khatibi lives and works in Paris, France.

Gallery hours Tue – Sat 10 am – 6 pm

Exhibition Duration 12 April – 11 May 2024


392 Broadway
10013 New York, NY
United States


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