San Francisco artist Sanaz Mazinani presents a new and ambitious work that transforms cinematic action sequences, prompting a fresh perspective on the meanings and experience of media. Curated by Marc Mayer, educator for public programs, “Sanaz Mazinani: Threshold” is on view March 27 through May 3 in the Asian Art Museum’s Vinson Gallery. Mazinani’s work explores the conceptual and formal frames of photography as they relate to perception and representation, especially in digital culture.
Above the buzz of tool-wielding contractors installing two floors’ worth of her artwork at the Guggenheim Museum on Monday morning, even Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian had to ask, “Did I do that all?” An understandable reaction considering the 91-year-old was taking in her first major U.S. museum show. When her “Infinite Possibility. Mirror Works and Drawings, 1974-2014” exhibition bows Wednesday [March 11], museumgoers will get a kaleidoscopic look at one of the more involved, yet untold stories in the modern art world.
Read More: Monir Farmanfarmaian Talks Art
It is rare for an Iranian artist to be widely celebrated at home, withstanding the scrutiny of a nation in love with both art and the contemporary and yet highly critical of its living artists because it recognizes the contemporary as a category imposed from the outside. Born in 1937, Parviz Tanavoli has become a legendary figure through a prolific career as artist, scholar and teacher. Iran’s first significant modern sculptor, he works in a style distinctly his own, undeniably modern, and entirely Iranian. In bringing together over 50 years of his art in his first US solo museum exhibition, the Davis Museum has the task of engaging with thousands of years of cultural heritage, which Tanavoli draws on with fervour and ease.
Read More: Parviz Tanavoli: Plenty of ‘Nothing’
Fact after revelatory fact spills out of the Iranian artist Parviz Tanavoli. The 78-year-old, Tehran-born sculptor, scholar and polymath is ruminating on his life and work during an absorbing Skype chat from his home in Vancouver. He describes, for instance, how in 1962 he put together a contemporary Iranian art exhibition tour of the US, which opened in Minneapolis.
For most of us, a knock at the door is nothing to worry about. But when Ahmad Tabrizi first arrived in Vancouver as a refugee from Iran in 1987, that sound meant something ominous. “When I came here, I didn’t speak any English,” Tabrizi said in an interview. “When I heard a knock at the door, I thought: ‘Is that Immigration coming to take me away?’” Yet, as he soon discovered, it wasn’t always something he had to fear.
Read More: Ahmad Tabrizi
The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) presents “Fathi Hassan: Migration of Signs” through April 26. For 30 years, Egyptian-born Nubian artist Fathi Hassan has created mixed-media works that explore the ambiguity of language. His best-known paintings, drawings and installations are comprised of intentionally indecipherable Arabic calligraphy. These text-based works embody the alienation of being faced with language — and by extension a culture — that cannot be read, interpreted or decoded.
Read More: Fathi Hassan Illuminates Ambiguity
One attribute that is common to original thinkers is an ability to perceive what is intangible in human experience and to translate it into comprehensible terms. As Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing that we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” Asheer Akram’s “Sacred Spaces” exhibition attempts to express the concepts that Einstein describes. On view at the Belger Crane Yard Gallery, the works decode mystical experience into visual form. Dualities of material and content are paired in massive sculptures, large wall reliefs and smaller ceramic vessels. Components that are ponderous and hefty, such as steel, oak and clay, are cut and formed in evanescent filigrees that riff on Islamic patterns.
The work of Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat, whose photographs, films and video installations deal with gender, politics and religion in the Islamic world, has been heralded by art critics and collected by major museums. Although Neshat has lived in the United States since the 1970s, her work has most often been focused on the lives of women in Iran, and more recently with the aftermath of the Arab Spring in Egypt.
When Nasreen Mohamedi died in 1990, at 53, in India, few people outside a group of artist friends in her home country knew of her. That has changed. A retrospective at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi last year was rapturously received. She is now recognized as a key figure of South Asian Modernism.
Read More: Nasreen Mohamedi
Two cone-topped minarets pierce the sky, silhouetted against a striking backdrop of clouds. Below them is an elaborate stone portal with a pointed arch, intricately carved with Islamic calligraphy and arabesque patterns in the style of the Seljuks, a dynasty that ruled much of what is now Turkey during the 12th and 13th centuries. Inside the archway, a wooden door sits ajar, while a small child, barefoot and unkempt, passes by in the foreground.
As a girl growing up in Pakistan, Hamra Abbas would draw pictures of whatever she saw around the house. Last summer, visiting her mother in Lahore, the artist spotted a small keepsake, a plaster cast of a curtain covering the entrance to the Kaaba, the Islamic holy site in Mecca. She made a picture of it. Now that image is emblazoned on the façade of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. “It sparked an inquiry about objects of religious significance in a neglected, sad state,” says Abbas, now a multimedia artist with an international career who divides her time between Cambridge and Lahore.
Leila Heller Gallery is pleased to present new painting installations and video works by Shoja Azari that seamlessly intertwine myth with reality, quotation with intervention in order to examine the integral roles played by history and context in depictions of the Islamic world. Originally trained as a filmmaker and as a video artist, Azari over the last seven years has been incorporating elements of the moving picture with brush strokes to create a distinctive body of work that redefines filmmaking while conceptually and formally subverting the classic definition of painting.
Read More: Shoja Azari: FAKE Idyllic Life
Art, culture, religion and inspiration all come together in the Schuster Gallery’s current art exhibition, titled “Muslim/American, American/Muslim.” The exhibition, which opened August 30 and will continue until October 30, features photographs taken by Robert Gerhardt, who reached out to Gannon University’s Schuster Gallery after reading an article published in 2012 about Muslim students’ increasing presence in private Catholic universities, including Gannon. The photographs, taken mostly in states with a high Muslim population like New York, New Jersey and Illinois, shed light on everyday lives of American Muslims, with several shots of Muslims worshipping in mosques or around the country.
Taymour Grahne, the accomplished blogger and art collector credited with shining a spotlight on some of the Middle East’s best artists, is finally opening his own gallery. The eponymous Tribeca establishment opens its doors this week, bringing the best of Middle Eastern and North African fine art to the doorsteps of Manhattan. To celebrate, Grahne is ushering in the gallery’s debut with a exhibition of one of Iran’s biggest – and most opinionated – painters, Nicky Nodjoumi.
Storytelling has been an integral part of life in the Middle East — and Iran in particular — for centuries. Whether spoken in the streets, played as a game or painted on a canvas, Iranian folkloric tradition, with its uniquely theatrical and magical approach to the question of what it means to be a denizen of the earth, traverses regions and generations. Fairy tales, jokes, religious allegories, and animal legends have long been a part of a continuing oral and visual history, though the number of Naghals (traditional Persian storytellers who narrate painted scenes) has dwindled in recent decades. Still, elaborate storytelling in all forms remains ubiquitous, and to be Iranian means having the ability to suspend one’s disbelief and succumb to the sometimes troubling, sometimes beautiful details of an oft-told tale.
Read More: Farideh Lashai
The roof garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the lovelier places to go in New York during the warm seasons. Every year its pastoral bliss high above Central Park is complemented by some sort of benign sculpture exhibition, usually three-dimensional works of formal decorum or playful ingenuity. This year visitors will discover something strikingly different: the 8,000-square-foot terrace is splattered with paint the color of dried blood. At first glance it looks like a crime scene or the site of a ritual slaughter.
The Columbia Museum of Art organizes and presents the first retrospective exhibition of the art of Steven Naifeh. Found in Translation: The Art of Steven Naifeh opened on Friday, May 17th, 2013 and remains on view through Sunday, September 1st, 2013. The 26 large-scale works of modern art reflect Naifeh’s personal taste, preferences and attitudes about geometric abstraction that developed over the span of 40 years. It is hardly surprising that Naifeh’s childhood in the Middle East educated his eye to the rigorous forms of Arab and Islamic art.
Read More: Steven Naifeh
Lisa Ross’s luminous photographs are not our usual images of Xinjiang. One of China’s most turbulent areas, the huge autonomous region in the country’s northwest was brought under permanent Chinese control only in the mid-twentieth century. Officially, it is populated mostly by non-ethnic Chinese — Turkic peoples like Uighurs (also spelled Uyghurs), Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz, as well as Mongolians and even Russians — and its population has long had difficult relations with Beijing. In 2008, 2009, and 2012, Xinjiang was the site of bloody protests.
Read More: China’s Sufis: The Shrines Behind the Dunes
See also: Living Shrines of Uyghur China
Beginning from April 7th until July 7th, 2013, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) in Detroit, Michigan, is home to a major mid-career retrospective of the work of Shirin Neshat – a globally celebrated Iranian artist living in New York. Working from the depth of her experiences as an Iranian artist living in exile over the last three decades, almost the entirety of the life of the Islamic republic ruling her homeland, Shirin Neshat has by now established a critical constellation of factors definitive to her work: women with or without veiling, men in plain white clothes, Persian poetry and prose exuding from their faces and bodies, all coming together to play on a porous border line between femininity, gendered binaries, subdued eroticism, all staged at the threshold of a pending violence.
Read More: Shirin Neshat at Work
The Detroit Institute of Arts presents Shirin Neshat, a mid-career retrospective of Iranian American artist Shirin Neshat, April 7th to July 7th 2013. Neshat is known for her exceptional photography, films and video installations that deal with issues of gender, politics and identity. This exhibition is the first major showing of Neshat’s work in more than 10 years and is free with museum admission. Shirin Neshat is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Generous support has been provided by the MetLife Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and Marjorie & Maxwell Jospey Foundation.
Shiva Ahmadi’s third solo exhibition is on view at Leila Heller Gallery in Chelsea at 568 West 25th Street from February 21st to March 23rd, 2013. Apocalyptic Playland features new paintings, works on paper, and also includes the artist’s fist foray into video work. Although on the surface Ahmadi’s works appear vibrant, playful, and even mythical, they nevertheless deal very much with the harsher sides of reality.
Read More: Shiva Ahmadi’s Exhibition
Five new works by Samira Yamin, currently on display at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, merge traditional Islamic art with modern mass media, resulting in poetic, contemplative objects both visually beautiful and conceptually disorienting.
“Do exiles just wander around, or do they look for a home?” Zarina Hashmi asked recently. Being an exile is something of a core identity for the Indian-born, New York-based artist. It began in 1959, 12 years after the traumatic partition of her native country, when her father, like many Indian Muslims, moved the family to the newly declared nation of Pakistan. “Home,” she would recall, “is the center of my universe…my hiding place, a house with four walls, sometimes with four wheels.”
Read More: Dividing Lines and the Art of the Exile
See Also: Zarina Hashmi at the Guggenheim
Stickers and graffiti cover the walls, the ceiling, and the floors as you ascend the interior stairwell of the Luggage Store Gallery. Over the years, many artists, and indeed many visitors, have made their mark here. Taraneh Hemami’s Fist (all works 2013), a powder coated aluminum and Plexiglas sculpture of a clenched fist raised in solidarity, is positioned at the top of the stairs, increasingly visible with each step. It presents a striking emblem of the Luggage Store’s long legacy as a fundamentally gritty alternative nonprofit arts space and embodies the same spirit of the layered stickers in the long entrance. It also offers visual entre to Hemami’s solo exhibition of largely sculptural new works that explore the visual history of resistance leading up to and beyond the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Read More: Taraneh Hemami
Zarina Hashmi’s prints and sculptures are as elegantly spare as they are deeply personal, each evoking some element of her long, rich, wayfaring life. They represent the borders she has crossed, the places she has lived, the techniques she has honed, the poetry she has loved, the discipline with which she works, and, above all, a long-standing relationship with her medium of choice: paper, the handmade sort, be it pressed into sheets or extracted raw from vats of pulp. She has pierced it with pinholes; embossed it with thread; sculpted it into geometric bas-reliefs; and imprinted it with maps, lines, shapes, Urdu script, and the dense, sinewy grain of unsanded planks of wood. The breadth of her output will be on display in a long-overdue retrospective, Zarina: Paper Like Skin, opening January 25th, 2013 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Read More: Zarina Hashmi at the Guggenheim