On Farhad Moshiri’s Solo Exhibition at The Andy Warhol Museum

José Díaz talking about the jar series Faghat Eshgh-Only Love, 2007

 

On Farhad Moshiri’s Solo Exhibition at The Andy Warhol Museum

Author: Golnar Touski

Graduate student. History of Art and Architecture

Farhad Moshiri: Go West, an exhibition curated by Jose Carlos Diaz, The Andy Warhol Museum’s chief curator, is currently on view at The Andy Warhol Museum. This is the Iranian artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States, surveying two decades of Moshiri’s career.

Moshiri rose to fame with his embellished, jeweled paintings adorned with calligraphic inscriptions of Iranian pop poetry. Over two decades, his works referenced the Iranian pop culture, calligraphy and decorative arts in dialogue with the prevalent American culture of entertainment and consumerism, ubiquitous in Iran of 1980s and 1990s. Often profiled as a Pop artist, his art defies categories of art commonly associated with the Middle East. He uses icons of the Iranian and ancient Persian art, but unlike his Iranian modern predecessors of the 1960 and 70s, he is not much interested in abstraction. Rather he employs visual markers of Middle Eastern art to comment on consuming an imagined Persia.

In the context of The Andy Warhol Museum, Farhad Moshiri’s works find a situated-ness that otherwise would not be as visible to the Iranian and non-Iranian audiences alike. Seen in this context Moshiri initiates a dialogue with the Western imported pop culture, Western movies, Disney cartoons and French postcards on the one hand; and iterations of the Iranian consumerism on the other. Seen next to Warhol’s interest in and referencing of the American pop culture, Moshiri’s labor-intensive, elaborate remaking of popular everyday objects juxtapose infinite reproducibility with an obsessive hand-making of images; a way of making reproducible objects of one’s own by dense, rich textural adornment and adoration.  

Moshiri’s art could be thought of as a playful manipulation of mechanisms of desire, labor and language. By flattening ancient objects in his famous jar series (Faghat Eshgh-Only Love, 2007) he generates a metonymy of the Ancient Persia, an imagined identity referring to everyday lives of Iranians who were exposed to the globalized capitalism especially during the years after the 1979 revolution and who found it necessary to define Iranian-ness in the face of an increasing political isolation of the country.

Such artistic strategy also redefines objects linguistically, linking the Persian calligraphy, a form of “sublime” artistic production to consumerism. Moshiri notices how calligraphy, an art of Persian royal courts and a revered form of art practice became a commodity of the world of art and a marker of identity.

But perhaps the most striking about his recent works, such as the Frosting Stories series, is their uniquely sensory quality. Viewing Moshiri’s art closely is a completely different experience. The glittery, ornate details strike a chord with the viewer's sense of nostalgia and desire; and it would be fair to say that the Iranian and American audiences both experience such an affective, visceral response. The rich textures and subtle details recreate the Persian 17th century architectural elements, Persian manuscript illumination and calligraphy, but in the shape of cake frosting and cheap jewelry; something thet one wants to touch, and taste. Something that is commodifiable Yet the commodities Moshiri offers us always entail an uncomfortable encounter that is either sexually charged or implicitly violent.

Moshiri’s use of domestic labor is also worth noting. He employs local craftswomen whose specialty is making wedding dresses to create garish, glittery beaded surfaces and embroidered paintings; a form of low-brow, domestic art which was never taken seriously vis-à-vis sublimity of the Iranian Modern art movement of mid-1960s and 1970s. While the imagery is playful and cartoonish, the rich texture is indicative of hours and hours of labor, hence implying a subtle sense of discomfort in the contradictory co-existence of labor and consumerism.

Moshiri was born in 1963 in the early years of the Iranian modern art movement; he is well aware of the legacy of the Iranian modern art as a form of 'committed art' which at the same time drew heavily on the EuroAmerican tradition of modernism. It so seems that Moshiri’s glittery, elaborate surfaces respond to a culmination of events before and after the Iranian revolution of 1979, when revolutionary aspirations of the modern art were replaced by a fervor to accumulate objects and consumption of identity.

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Golnar Yarmohammad Touski presented her response to a tour of the Fahrad Moshiri: Go West exhibition by Jose Carlos Diaz on October 20 at The Andy Warhol Museum. The above blog post records her comments and reflections on this occasion.

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