Exhibition showcasing prominent Iranian diaspora artists touches on life after exile.
“ART BRIEF II: Iranian Contemporary North America” marks the second installment of ADVOCARTSY’s innovative programmes seeking to connect, educate and engage.
“ART BRIEF II: Iranian Contemporary North America” brings together 14 Iranian diaspora artists residing throughout North America. The exhibition opens on 2 June 2016 at the Arena 1 Gallery in Santa Monica, with two curator tours (7 and 9 June) and an Art Talk/Closing Reception on 12 June 2016. The show is curated by ADVOCARTSY Founder Roshi Rahnama and Dr. Talinn Grigor, Professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis and the author of Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio.
In addition to the 13 visual artists, one performance artist, Melika Abikenari will participate. The Closing Reception on 12 June 2016 will include an Art Panel with Dr. Talinn Grigor, Anousheh Razi, Collector and Patron, Scott J. Schaefer, Senior Curator of Paintings Emeritus, J. Paul Getty Museum, and Formerly Senior Vice-President, International Fine Arts, Sotheby’s Los Angeles.
ADVOCARTSY, a platform seeking to bring together an international roster of artists, curators, collectors, galleries and “industry visionaries” through exhibitions and art events, is the brainchild of Roshi Rahnama. Several years back, Rahnama, who spent over 20 years as a lawyer in California, noticed a lack of community engagement around the Fine Arts. In 2015, she founded ADVOCARTSY, with the expressed determination to fill this void, which in turn resulted in the organisation’s first exhibition at the end of that year.
Rahnama discussed the impetus behind the creation of ADVOCARTSY and the contemporary art scene in Los Angeles in the catalogue (PDF download) for “ART BRIEF: Iranian Contemporary North America”:
Los Angeles is home to a bustling and diverse art scene, perhaps one of the most celebratory and productive scenes of contemporary art in the world. It is also home to a vibrant and active Iranian community — the largest concentration of Iranians outside of Iran itself. Yet I noticed a void. Despite this parallelism, and despite a declared desire which was routinely articulated to me by friends and community members alike, there remained an absence of community engagement with the fine arts. I deferred that this was largely due to an absence of proper avenues for Iranian artists to showcase their work and connect with their most natural base of collectors, enthusiasts, and supporters.
The existing art platforms which have dedicated their time and resources to the celebration of the Iranian contemporary arts (which include established museums and various galleries) have faced and continue to face significant challenges in funding and support. They rely heavily on a few dedicated patrons and sponsors to achieve their respective goals in acquiring and exhibiting works by Iranian artists. Many galleries have simply been left with no choice but to close their doors or redefine.
The potential loss of a community’s shared identity as it assimilates to its adopted country and individuals’ “fragmentation of the self” is something that ADVOCARTSY seeks to examine through its exhibitions and events. As co-curator Dr. Tallin Grigor noted in the exhibition’s catalogue, this very dilemma was predicted to happen to the Iranian diaspora community some thirty years ago by Karim Emami:
The first Iranian art critic, Karim Emami, foresaw the predicament in which we would find ourselves today. Thirty years on, his question remains not only relevant, but also poignant: what is Iranian about their art? And what really is Iranian about these artists? From the outset, the exhibition aimed to address several overlapping concerns particular to its place and time, gathering a diverse set of artists whose work addressed a common passion: the malleable and constructive notion of “Iran” as such. For each of these artists, “Iran” and “Iranian” are an empty canvas that they paint.
ADVOCARTSY’S first “concentrated” community event resulted in “ART BRIEF: Iranian Contemporary Los Angeles”, with a dozen local artists participating and an art talk panelled by Homa Sarshar, American art critic Peter Frank, historian Tooraj Daryaee and artists Marjam Oskoui and Farzad Kohan. As Rahnama told Art Radar, the premier event was a promising “first step”:
The first ART BRIEF exhibition proved my intuition that Los Angeles was eager to engage and support a platform dedicated to showcasing Iranian Contemporary art. The amazing collaborative effort between the artists and collaborating galleries was innovative and intended to address a void within the Los Angeles community. Over 1000 people attended the weekend long exhibition. The exhibition further provided Los Angeles with a diverse conversation around what Iranian Contemporary Art represents. It was a great first step in realizing a large potential.
Los Angeles and beyond
In June 2016, the organisation’s second installation reaches further afield, as Rahnama relayed to Art Radar:
ART BRIEF II represents a larger base of artists than the first exhibition as it showcases works by Iranian artists beyond those based in Los Angeles. This exhibition showcases works by 14 artists based in North America and explores how each of the artists have addressed their separation from their homeland in their work. This exhibition will certainly invite the viewers to each explore and connect with their own personal experiences of transition, be it as immigrants from one country to another or otherwise, as this is certainly a universal concept. I hope that this exhibition will bring awareness to our shared experiences, thus connecting us through the arts.