Three Generations of Iranian Sculptors / Fravahr Art Gallery / Tehran / Iran / 2010


Sculpture seems to be in a more challenging situation compared to other artistic fields in Iran. Its revival after the Revolution took longer than other disciplines. However, the restoration of the discipline in art universities gave it new blood, leading above all to the coming together of different generations of sculptors. Biennials and other official competitions reappeared and galleries and collectors showed more interest in sculpture. In this way, in the past two decades, sculpture slowly found its place and an artistic society of sculptors was gradually re-formed. In October 2010, a selection of works by three generations of Iranian sculptors, curated by Amir Mobed, was displayed in Fravahr Gallery. It was an attempt to depict an overall image of present-day professional sculpture-making—of the artists who, despite all the restraints have reclaimed credit for the field and directed it onto a creative path in line with the overall movement of Iranian contemporary art. The exhibition pays tribute to Parviz Tanavoli as a modernist precursor and a progressive teacher, whose achievements from the1960s on, in joining Iranian traditional iconography with western Modernist devices, is seen as a landmark in the history of modern Iranian art. His massive, robust sculpture stands beside the tiny, almost invisible construction by Behrooz Darash, whose attempts at dematerialising art and its association with literature marks another influential trend.

The second generation, having started their careers after the Revolution, is mostly characterised by formal and technical concerns. M.H. Emad and Kourosh Golnari show a delicate touch with Islamic mysticism as manifested in poetry and architecture. Fatemeh Emdadian is mostly known for her semi-abstract wooden figures. Daryar Garousian has revealed a change by combining his favourite organic, abstract forms with architectural, cage-like elements.

There finally comes a younger generation which, despite the lack of tangible examples and scarcity of resources, has managed to forge new paths and prompt creative currents which, for all their experimentalism, are nonetheless notable for their variety of media and approaches, their deconstru¬ctive nature and the large number of practitioners.

Here, Zahra Zavareh invited the viewers to stretch their hands into a hole made in the pedestal, and detect the form of the hidden sculpture by touching it. Sara Rouhi-Sefat made ironic combinations of kitchenware and fashion design, also persuading the viewers to interact with the sign: “Touch, please”. Hamed Rashtian, Behdad Lahooti and Amirali Bashiri, on the other hand, tried to combine technical accomplishment with socio-political statements. Sahand Hesmian had installed his favourite geometrical constructions in the cellar, using hallucinogenic lighting. Farzin Hedayat Zadeh, Nassim Abolghassem and Anahita Ghassemkhani had made free, playful narrations of their lived, everyday experience. Amir Vafaei’s piece was an example of the abstract trends in Iranian contemporary sculpture. These works rely more on a reflection of the immediate environment, socio-political concerns or autobiographical narratives than on beauty and technical accomplishment. They combine pop vitality and playfulness with a poignant contemporary irony.
Helia Darabi