Contemporary Iranian Art mixes Persian symbols with a modern approach: "Wishes and Dreams" exhibit scheduled to tour nine U.S. cities
Washington – Young Iranian artists incorporate traditional Persian symbols in many of the abstract, minimalist or even digital and video works of art currently on exhibit at the Meridian International Center in Washington.
The symbols help Iranian viewers connect to the artwork in “Wishes and Dreams: Iran’s New Generation Emerges” and to their heritage. But even for American viewers, the symbols add depth, contrast and interest. The collection of modern works – approachable and aesthetically pleasing – introduces Americans to contemporary Iran.
Exhibit co-curator Nancy Matthews of the Meridian Center said she and co-curator A. R. Sami Azar, former director of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, set out to gather a sampling of the artwork being done by emerging artists in Iran's capital, Tehran.
The exhibition, co-sponsored by the Meridian Center and the Tehran University Art Gallery, runs in Washington until July 29 and then will travel to eight other American cities through 2008. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the artwork of the Iranian artists for creating a bridge between Iranian and American culture.
Among sweeping white brushstrokes on Rhythm 1, a black-painted diptych, are calligraphic forms. Artist Golnaz Fathi told USINFO that she enjoys the “tension” created by the calligraphy – a traditional Iranian art form – that “dances along the canvas without speaking.” Fathi uses music to inspire her; then she paints calligraphic shapes without concern for any particular letters or words.
Two Parrots Picking on a Bowl of Cherries by Rokneddin Haerizadeh “is full of Persian symbols,” co-curator Matthews said. From the wall fabric to the parrots to the cherries, the artist uses an impressionist technique to tell a story. “Persian painting has always been narrative,” Haerizadeh writes in the exhibition notes, “and I am searching for a modern narrative.” Iranians will understand the meaning of the symbols, Matthews said, and Americans will enjoy the painting because of its intimate perspective and use of everyday objects.
Bird in Flight is inspired by Forough Farokhzad’s poem “The Bird Was Only a Bird,” but the expressionist painting is about “feeling,” artist Nargess Hashemi told USINFO. Hashemi said she does not use traditional symbols in her canvas, which requires viewers’ “emotions, not brains” to connect with the work.
Matthews said many of the artists have been inspired by the 13th-century Iranian poet Jelaluddin Rumi, including Dream of a Woman by Afshin Pirhashemi. “I love Rumi’s poetry and make extensive use of its enigmatic meanings in my work,” Pirhashemi said.