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Yek, do, se (1, 2, 3): Three Contemporary Iranian Artists

Exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Ahmanson Building, Level 4
July 10, 2010-December 5, 2010

Bahman Jalali, Iran, 1944–2010, Untitled from the Series Image of Imagination, 2003-2005, silver bromide print, purchased with funds provided by Karl Loring.

Many Iranian artists, including those in diaspora communities, visualize a society trapped between the present and the past in order to comment upon issues of gender, exile, history, and religion. Such is the case with the three artists represented here, whose work forms part of LACMA's growing collection of contemporary art of the Middle East.

Bahman Jalali's career coincided and engaged with the dramatic socioreligious transformation of Iran in the late twentieth century. As a documentary photographer, teacher, historian, and artist, Jalali (1944-2010) employed the photographic image as evidence that can be rediscovered with the passage of time. In the two untitled photographs shown here, from his series Image of Imagination, he fused two distinct Iranian legacies-the nineteenth-century Qajar dynasty and the 1979 Revolution-into one image. By layering early photographic portraits and documentary footage of a photography studio sign defaced during the revolutionary period, he reveals the complex relationship between past and present. The images of the women and the sign belong to the past, while the colorful defacement represents present-day Iran.

Yassaman Ameri (b. 1956) is a photographer and multimedia artist born in Iran who now lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Her series The Inheritance, of which six prints are included here, was inspired by a group of late nineteenth-century photographs depicting prostitutes, each of whom is identified by a black inscription. Ameri frames the photographs with colorful images of Qajar interiors or incorporates references to the nascent medium of photography in Iran. In doing so, she recontextualizes the women in fictive settings in order to afford them a new identity. The artist clearly identifies with a group of women whose profession alienated them from their own society. In a similar vein, Ameri was forced into exile from Iran following the 1979 Revolution.

Samira Alikhanzadeh (b. 1967) is a painter and multimedia artist whose work also references the past, but only so far back as the first half of the twentieth century when Iran was transformed into a modern nation-state under the leadership of Reza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925-41). The Shah undertook to bring both women and religious minorities into the mainstream of national life in order to create an ideal of modernity. As part of his reform movement, he sought the elimination of the Islamic veil; indeed, the compulsory uncovering of women was decreed by law in 1936. In the pair of untitled pieces shown here, Alikhanzadeh uses found images of women from this period and incorporates contemporaneous Persian carpets, which help to fix these young women in time and place.

This installation was made possible in part by the Art of the Middle East Council.


Pearls on the Ocean Floor: A Documentary on Contemporary Female Iranian Artists

Thursday, July 22
7:30 pm

Robert Adanto's Pearls on the Ocean Floor challenges stereotypes and caricatures obscuring the vibrant and robust culture in Iran and its diaspora. Featuring Shadi Ghadirian, Shirin Neshat, Parastou Forouhar, Haleh Anvari, Sara Rahbar, Leila Pazooki, Afshan Ketabchi, Malekeh Nayiny, Bahar Sabzevari, Afsoon, Gohar Dashti, and Negar Ahkami. This screening takes place in conjunction with LACMA's special installation: Yek, Do, Se (1,2,3): Three Contemporary Iranian Artists, featuring artworks by Yassaman Ameri, Bahman Jalali, and Samira Alikhanzadeh, on view on the Fourth Floor of the Ahmanson Building July 10-December 5, 2010.

Bing Theater
Free, no reservations
A Q&A with Director Robert Adanto will follow the screening

Image: Malekeh Nayiny (Iran, b. 1965) Three Uncles, 1997-1998 Digital Print Gift of the Art of the Middle East Council, Istanbul Trip 2008 M.2009.11.1

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