Amazingly Original: Contemporary Iranian Art at Crossroads

Vol. 1: The Figurative Arts

Availability: In stock
Published: 2014
Page #: ix + 406
Size: 9 x 12
ISBN: 1-56859-265-5, ISBN 13: 978-1568592657
plates, bibliography, index, notes

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Quick Overview

The contemporary arts of Iran have yet to live across many zones of criticism, debate, and philosophical understanding on the way to more widespread and long-term notice. Nevertheless, at this crossroads, Iran’s contemporary arts––especially photography, the genius of its artistic expression––bespeak a wholly different frame of vision and production than that of any other time or place. Although a great deal of research and work is necessary to determine the aesthetic and historical significance of this current display, we may be assured that the so-far-generated polemics regarding its place and meaning have laid the foundation for its enduring significance not only in Iran but also worldwide. This book exemplifies the nontranscendent, unpretentious, and liberated path of contemporary Iran’s art production and indicates an inward freedom from conventions and academic aesthetic themes. The honesty and authenticity of most of Iran’s contemporary productions, be they in the works of Shirin Aliabadi, Mohammad Ghazali, Sadegh Tirafkan, Parastou Forouhar, Taraneh Hemami, Mandana Moghaddam and others discussed in this book is, when compared to Iran’s earlier art, phenomenal. For, rarely has so much of a period’s art appeared so simple yet turned out to be so complex. Mohammad Ghazali’s “Where the Heads of the Renowned Rest” and Shirin Aliabadi’s “Miss Hybrid,” among many others discussed in the book, prove this point. Ghazali’s urban images appear at first to be ordinary, quotidian photography, until after some scrutiny, one enters the horizon of his profound metaphysical subversions. Aliabadi, who may be viewed as playful and even superficial, represents one of those interstices of play where the paradox of desire and control, of simulation and dissimulation, have made transparent both the microcosm and macrocosm of Iran’s culture. Her images are filled with remembrances of past psychologies that can be measured, albeit subtly, beneath the façade of the work’s modern females. This book also explores how contemporary art should be viewed in terms not only of what is there but also of what is allowed to be there. The prescriptions for artistic expression are to a great extent shaped by the proscriptions of a period of time, that is, by the sociopolitical reach of governments and their traditions. Neda Razavipour and Shahab Fotouhi have shown profound awareness of this fact in “Census” by posting at Gallery 13 all the documentation required for the official permit to go through––a feat not that different from many of Christo’s recordings, which intended to show that the final product or the signified content is to a great extent a byproduct of institutional rules. It is amazing that within the strictest of institutional proscriptions, the contemporary artists of Iran have, for the most part, managed to chart new aesthetic and iconographic paths. The complexity of Iran’s contemporary life and thus its art is necessarily sodden with tensions and conflicts that, given the context’s rigid proscriptions, have produced a theatre of signs, evading and avoiding official obstacles. Therefore, as in the works of Tirafkan, Yunessi, Danaeifar, Kowsari, and Golshiri, though they demonstrate a variety of methodologies, we find a radical reformulation of signs as theatrical symbols. In these works the epistemology of cognition is bypassed so that meaning, highly discursive, may not be easily codified. Though political demands have vitiated freedom of expression, new tactics and strategies of communication have both overcome the State’s demands and enriched the various arts and their meanings.


Abbas Daneshvari

Professor Abbas Daneshvari is the former Chair of the Department of Art and a Professor of Art History at California State University, Los Angeles. His publications cover various aspects of Islamic art's iconography as attested by his books "Animal Symbolism in Warqa wa Gulshah" (Oxford University Press), "Medieval Tomb Towers of Iran" (Mazda Publishers), "Of Serpents and Dragons in Islamic Art: An Iconographical Study" (Mazda Publishers) and many articles on the iconography of Islamic art. Professor Daneshvari is the editor of "Essays in Islamic Art and Architecture in Honor of Katharina Otto Dorn" (Undena Publications) and the editor of volumes 17 and 18 of Arthur Upham Pope's magnum opus, "A Survey of Persian Art" (Mazda Publishers). He is also the author of a forthcoming book on contemporary Iranian art.

IX Acknowledgements
2 Introduction
6 The Poetics of Knowledge, Knowing, and Identity:
Seismic Shifts across Political Zones in Contemporary Iranian Art
82 Expressions of Gender in Contemporary Iranian Art
118 Text and Image in Contemporary Iranian Art
142 Memory: The Device of Juxtaposition in Contemporary Iranian Art


162 Shirin Aliabadi
168 Samira Alikhanzadeh
176 Vahid Danaeifar
182 Mohammad-Hossein Emad
188 Parastou Forouhar
204 Shadi Ghadirian
208 Mohammad Ghazali
220 Barbad Golshiri
238 Babak Golkar, 1
256 Babak Golkar, 2
264 Ghazaleh Hedayat
276 Peyman Hooshmandzadeh
282 Abbas Kowsari
294 Mandana Moghaddam
314 Ahmad Morshedloo
322 Shirin Neshat
346 Neda Razavipour and Shahab Fotouhi
356 Babak Roshaninejad
362 Newsha Tavakolian
366 Sadegh Tirafkan
388 Adel Younessi
399 Index


The following review appeared in the March 2015 issue of CHOICE
This volume is one of several recent publications on contemporary Iranian art. Others include Hamid Keshmirshekan’s Contemporary Iranian Art: New Perspectives (2013), and Talinn Grigor’s Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio(2014). Like these recent books, this new volume by Daneshvari (California State Univ., Los Angeles) explores how past artistic trends have informed the work of contemporary Iranian artists. Conversely, these publications show how some of these artists are breaking their ties with traditional Persian styles to openly address the sociopolitical atmosphere of today’s Iran. What makes Daneshvari’s input outstanding is his formalist style of writing—a close reading of contemporary Iranian art in absolute rather than subjective terms. A more careful analysis of how Iranian artists are appropriating global artistic trends might reveal that their works are not so "amazingly original." However, Daneshvari reasons that this originality predominantly ensues from transcending the Islamic Republic’s restrictive institutional practices and irregular art market. Overall, readers should applaud the author for featuring 20-plus outstanding contemporary artists, whose works (some of which are little known) are presented in stunning color. Written with erudition and in straightforward prose, this book should appeal to both experts and newcomers
--P. Karimi, University of Massachusett
Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers.
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