The Space at ADVOCARTSY presents “The World is My Home”, a group exhibition deciphering a ‘New Iranian Cultural Identity’.

Considering shared histories, diaspora and storytelling, Art Radar takes a closer look at the exhibition’s four contributing artists.

Dana Nehdaran, ‘Fe26 series – A Gold Square’, 2016, iron powder, gold leaf and oil on canvas, 50.8 x 40.6 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY

Dana Nehdaran, ‘Fe26 series – A Gold Square’, 2016, iron powder, gold leaf and oil on canvas, 50.8 x 40.6 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

“Where do you come from?” It is such a simple question, yet one eliciting a flood of answers. A home is not defined by birthplace, ancestry, skin colour or dwelling, but by its relational existence to one’s self; a home is similarly not confined to familial ties and/or marriage, but is moulded and reconfigured according to time and place. But what happens when one’s idea of home – or, at least, the relationships and surroundings that foster one – is taken or destroyed? What happens when one can no longer attribute the warmth and comfort of home in any specified time or place? Such is the consideration in ADVOCARTSY’s ongoing exhibition, “The World Is My Home”, which brings together four Iranian diaspora artists in a narrative attempt to decipher locational and interpersonal belonging.

The exhibition fosters understanding of what the artists are deeming a “new Iranian cultural identity” – a motif which aligns with the venue’s mission. Opening in October of last year, ADVOCARTSY expanded to The Space. The 1,800-square-foot-space is ideally situated in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles’ Fashion District, minutes from the rapidly expanding arts district and LA’s newest museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Roshi Rahnama, the gallery’s founder, sought a space that not only brought awareness of and engagement within Iranian contemporary art, but also fostered educational programming and collaborative projects between artists, critics, curators and collectors.

Afsoon, ‘”We are our choices” JP Sartre’, 2018, watercolour and paper collage on Arches paper, 30.5 x 22.8 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Afsoon, ‘”We are our choices” JP Sartre’, 2018, watercolour and paper collage on Arches paper, 30.5 x 22.8 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

“The World is My Home” takes over The Space until 10 June 2018, drawing inspiration from “In Between”, the exhibition series curated by contributing artist Shahram Karimi at Mana Contemporary in New Jersey. With Iranian artists “receiving increasing attention over the last decade”, Karimi asks:

The time has come to ask ourselves what distinctive characteristics modern Iranian art presents in relation to Iran’s abundant cultural heritage and what are the contributions of artist who live outside of Iran?

Rahnama was compelled to perpetuate the dialogue opened by “In Between”, leading to the organisation of “The World is My Home”. She writes in the exhibition’s press release:

I am continually trying to expand the understanding of what Iranian contemporary art means as a realm of expression,” says Rahmana. “This exhibition further explores work by contemporary Iranian artists who are contributing significantly to this discussion through their unique experiences and are in turn, redefining Iranian cultural identity.

Shahram Karimi, ‘Angels’, 2009, mixed media on fabric, 104.1 x 104.1 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Shahram Karimi, ‘Angels’, 2009, mixed media on fabric, 104.1 x 104.1 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Running concurrently with LACMA’s anticipated exhibition “In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art”, “The World Is My Home” is a strong voice in the topical conversation on contemporary Iranian art. While the work of the four contributing artists – Afsoon, Roya Farassat, Shahram Karimi and Dana Nehdara – looks dramatically different, all four artists work on a two-dimensional plane, be it on paper, canvas or fabric, each, however, united by spontaneous gestures and the search for a more universal understanding of home. Art Radar takes a closer look at each of their methods.

Roya Farassat, ‘When the Smoke Clears’, 2018, oil and acrylic on paper, 55.9 x 76.2 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Roya Farassat, ‘When the Smoke Clears’, 2018, oil and acrylic on paper, 55.9 x 76.2 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Roya Farassat: between tradition and surreality

Born in Tehran, Iran, and now based in New York, Roya Farassat’s work is largely influenced by the entanglements between tradition and surreality. While embracing narrative distortion and cultural heritage on the same plane, themes of female identity, isolation, violence and oppression are prominent. Take, for example, her canvas Fragile Birds Were Never Meant to Fly; it is unclear whether the piece depicts a stage or a battlefield, yet the quick brushwork and menacing shadowed figures lend to more violent undertones. While bodies lie scattered throughout the scene, a central figure carries what appears to be the Russian flag, or at least the battered remnants of one. Other characters stand with spherical targets – be they redolent of the sun, a watchful eye or something more foreboding.

Roya Farassat, ‘Fragile Birds Were Never Meant to Fly’, 2018, oil on paper, 55.9 x 76.2 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Roya Farassat, ‘Fragile Birds Were Never Meant to Fly’, 2018, oil on paper, 55.9 x 76.2 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

The watchful eye – or gaze, as it were – has been a common thread in Farassat’s artistic career. As a young girl, she noted that women in her community were under the scrutiny of an unwelcome gaze – something she never forgot when she moved to the West as a teenager. While many of her paintings are left intentionally obscured, Farassat’s ongoing projects address femininity with the same ferocity and voracity as with topics of war, politics and persecution.

Afsoon, ‘Family Dynamics’, 2018, watercolour and paper collage on Arches paper, 35.5 x 25.4 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Afsoon, ‘Family Dynamics’, 2018, watercolour and paper collage on Arches paper, 35.5 x 25.4 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Afsoon: between East and West

After spending her childhood in Iran and early twenties in San Francisco, Afsoon settled in London. Her nomadic life is reflected in her multimedia work, specifically at the visual intersection between East and West, the familiar and the foreign. Her work in “The World is My Home” combines collage, photography, painting, etching and text, intimately and, at times, comically, layering references to familial quirks, philosophical conundrums and the inevitable dilemmas tied to one’s coming of age in a ‘home’ outside of one’s homeland. The result is a profound, yet often playful and witty tableau in which the audience is able to engage and interpret in its own way.

Afsoon, ‘Swing to Heaven’, 2018, watercolour and paper collage on Arches paper, 30.5 x 22.8 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Afsoon, ‘Swing to Heaven’, 2018, watercolour and paper collage on Arches paper, 30.5 x 22.8 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Dana Nehdaran, ‘Fe26 series’, 2017, oil and iron powder on linen, 152.4 cm (diameter). Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Dana Nehdaran, ‘Fe26 series’, 2017, oil and iron powder on linen, 152.4 cm (diameter). Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Dana Nehdaran: working with iron

Born in Chaharbagh, Iran, and now based in New York, Dana Nehdaran’s practice finds solace in material investigation, particularly in the tactile and symbolic history of iron. Processes of oxidation allow him to create images that become one with the canvas, featuring images of  betrayal, personal relationships and unforgotten pasts. Upon his arrival in the United States, Nehdaran felt home amongst old rebar, beams, storm-water covers and other ironwork that make up urban landscapes. His contribution to “The World is My Home” is aptly titled, Fe 26 (the chemical symbol and atomic number for iron), demonstrating not only the artist’s industrial curiosity, but also his intimate grasp of newfound residence. Nehdaran’s work is a tactile and textural demonstration of elements at play while simultaneously referencing the material’s larger geographical context. Here, tensions between aesthetic and utility, form and function and construction and malleable resurrection are apparent.

Dana Nehdaran, ‘Fe26 series – Three Squares’, 2017, gold leaf, silver leaf, copper leaf and oil on linen, 68.6 x 182.9 cm (triptych). Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Dana Nehdaran, ‘Fe26 series – Three Squares’, 2017, gold leaf, silver leaf, copper leaf and oil on linen, 68.6 x 182.9 cm (triptych). Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Shahram Karimi, ‘The Garden is My Skin’, 2018, mixed media on fabric, 144.8 x 104.1 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Shahram Karimi, ‘The Garden is My Skin’, 2018, mixed media on fabric, 144.8 x 104.1 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Shahram Karimi: the “contemporary bicultural Iranian’s dilemma”

Shahram Karimi, currently based between Germany and New York, was born and raised in Shiraz. His paintings on display at The Space portray what he calls the “contemporary bicultural Iranian’s dilemma”: pursuing historical and personal identity markers by fusing their personal, traditional pasts with contemporary form. Of his recent work, fellow New York-based Iranian artist Shirin Neshat wrote (PDF download):

In an era when Globalism has become an integral aspect of the postmodern man’s experience. Shahram Karimi, living in Germany, truly represents such trans-cultural currents and realties in the context of contemporary art. His aspirations are at once rooted in his personal cultural history such as the traditional Persian miniature paintings, his subsequent life in exile and exposure to the history of abstract, minimal and conceptual art of the West. Karimi has arrived at a unique form which combines both aspects of seemingly diverse cultures in an artistic language which transcends the boundaries of such localities.

Karimi’s paintings in “The World is My Home” are the ethereal, almost whimsical result of conveying his dilemma, situating themselves poignantly within the exhibition’s shared space.

Shahram Karimi, ‘Sisters’, 2006, brush pen on fabric, 139.7 x 109.2 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

Shahram Karimi, ‘Sisters’, 2006, brush pen on fabric, 139.7 x 109.2 cm. Image courtesy the artist and ADVOCARTSY.

While each of the four artists approach ‘home’ – or the convoluted, oftentimes inarticulable definition of it – through vastly different motifs and media, ADVOCARTSY’S The Space does just what its name advertises; it offers a space, a piece of ‘home’ fuelled by collaboration, introspection and variety. And that is the crux: home is an idea, as nomadic and sporadic as the individuals who seek to delineate it.

Megan Miller

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“The World is My Home” will be on view from 20 May to 10 June 2018 at The Space by ADVOCARTSY, 924 S San Pedro St. Los Angeles, CA, 90015, USA.

Related topics: Iranian artists, museum shows, mixed media, identity art, events in Los Angeles

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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