Iran Inside Out


Discussing art on the radio is usually a challenge. It can be difficult to convey the aesthetic value through spoken words. But after seeing the catalogue for Iran Inside Out, which openedthis weekend at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York, this was an easy decision to make. It just so happened to be a timely decision, given the protests and turmoil following the contested election in Iran. The works on display are sophisticated – provocative visually and intellectually – and there is a lot of it. More than fifty artists have contributed multiple pieces, demonstrating the artistic breadth of the Iranian people. Many of the artists are living in exile, such as Shiva Ahmadi. She paints war scenes, in a traditional Persian miniature style, on oil barrels. She witnessed the daily bombings of the Iran/Iraq war as a child and years later, living in the United States, those visions remain with her.

Others, such as Shirin Aliabadi and Farhad Moshiri, who still live in Iran, use humor to express their artistic visions. Those two artists use “advertisements” of Western household products to send ironic messages: “Tolerating – Intolerance” (printed on two bars resembling Toblerone chocolate) and “Rough Action Needs Tough Action – NEW Intifada Special Laundry Liquid” (complete with sidebar photos of a Muslim woman washing a blood-stained shirt before and after) and “Families – Ask Why” (printed on a box resembling Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes). Not as humorous, the photographs taken by Abbas Kowsari depict women in Iran, covered, in military garb, wielding fire arms and scaling the side of tall buildings. They’re haunting photos.

If you have an opportunity to see the exhibit in New York, it will be open through September 4th. If not, the catalogue is a strong second option. You can read about each artist, see pictures of some of their work and learn more about the museum by clicking here. Then download the .pdf file for “viewing the exhibition catalogue.”

The curators of the exhibit are Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil and the four artists we interview are Pooneh Maghazehe, Pouran Jinchi, Samira Abbassy, and Shoja Azari.

There’s also a book being offered in conjunction with the exhibit, it’s called Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art. Edited by Hossein Amirsadegh, it’s a beautiful extension of the Iranian art being shown at the Chelsea Art Museum.