Iran News ...


5/24/07

Most Wanted by Taraneh Hemami at The Gallery at Intersection in San Francisco

May 9 - June 30, 2007 at The Intersection for the Arts
Gallery Hours: Tues by appt, Wed - Sat, 12 - 5pm, FREE
www.theintersection.org
446 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94103

Photo: Sibila Savage


SPECIAL BENEFIT EVENING with Taraneh Hemami & Persis Karim: Wednesday June 13 @ 7pm, $25


Join Intersection for the Arts and Taraneh Hemami for a special benefit on Wednesday, June 13 at 7pm. This unique evening features a chance to meet and hear from the artist, a special reading with acclaimed Iranian-American writer and scholar Persis Karim, a wine and cheese reception, and it offers a great way to support Intersection's alternative arts space. Attendees will also have the exclusive opportunity to purchase limited edition prints from Taraneh Hemami's exhibition, Most Wanted (available this night ONLY!). This special evening is not to be missed!

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In association with Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center
An Extension of Most Wanted Exhibition at City Hall
Works on paper by Taraneh Hemami investigating the same themes as the Most Wanted installation currently on view at Intersection.
May 18 - June 13, 2007
Monday - Friday, 10am - 5 pm
Office of Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (District 5)
San Francisco City Hall Room 282
Van Ness Avenue between McAllister & Grove
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Most Wanted, a solo exhibition by Iranian-born painter, installation and conceptual artist Taraneh Hemami, investigates the nature of perception, recognition, and representation while examining the construction of the image of the new enemy. Interpretations of a series of faceless portrayals of the most wanted terrorists as identified by the United States government contemplate the ways in which stereotypical perceptions of people are created while pondering the relationship between image and identity. Exploring themes of displacement, preservation, and belonging, her paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and installations investigate the in-between spaces: between art, artifact and architecture; between two and three-dimensional space; between technology and hand crafted objects.

When Hemami left Iran in 1978 to attend the University of Oregon, she had little idea of what the future held. Within a year of her arrival in this country, the Iranian Revolution had changed her homeland forever and prevented her from visiting for more than a decade. "As an Iranian living in the U.S., it's not surprising that Hemami's art would explore her complex relationship with the concept of home and her struggle to secure a sense of belonging from both her country of residence and the country and culture of her youth. In many ways, Hemami's art is her home (quote from KQED's Spark)." Influenced by Persian art, architecture, and poetry, her paintings, sculptures, and installations all explore the complex cultural politics of exile through personal and community projects. In recent years, Hemami led an interdisciplinary project with other Iranian American artists that portrayed experiences of the Iranian immigrant population in California. Her work put a tangible face to a community and culture not entirely understood in the larger culture of America, and through sculpture, mixed media work, and installation, she has been able to give the stories and experiences vivid life and immediate accessibility.



Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, people of Middle Eastern descent were vilified across the nation because of their names or physical characteristics such as headscarves or facial hair. Around the same time, Hemami came across a comically blurry, low-resolution image online produced by the U.S. government that pictured over 70 of the "Most Wanted" international terrorists, with each man and woman pictured from the neck up. Although individual features cannot be made out because of the extreme pixelation of the image, general characteristics can be seen on the majority of people pictured - darkish skin, men with dark facial hair, women wearing head coverings. Even with such minimal visual information, there is an overbearing sense that these physical traits define terrorism as we know it and characterize the image of the "New Enemy" in the 21st Century. This is the primary basis for the commissioned works in this new exhibition (generously supported by The San Francisco Foundation's Fund for Artists Matching Commission program), where Hemami addresses stereotypical misrepresentations of an entire group of people through this project, and challenges the Islamophobia and xenophobia that have given rise to the distorted images of people of Middle Eastern descent living in the U.S.

Hemami plays around with ideas of portraiture and language (the Arabic script on the walls contain the same names as those on the stairwell carpet), and the widely differing contexts in which they can be seen. In the specific context of the U.S. government "Most Wanted" terrorist list, the faces with darkish skin, beards, and head coverings are positioned as individuals who need to be apprehended and brought to justice - the faces of the enemy and the proponents of global terrorism. Yet, without either signifiers of names, gender, or even cultural background, the blurry abstract faces are simply visual representations of unknown people. The absolute reduction of concrete facial information makes them completely unrecognizable, and brings forth the question of where the danger actually lies. Are we conflating and equating people with nations? Drawing upon her Iranian cultural heritage, Hemami disrupts our tendency to generalize by placing these same abstracted faces into very different contexts, referencing common beaded wall-hangings available at any bazaar in Iran as well as re-imagining shrines for those considered to be religious leaders and martyrs. She brings forth the question of context, and challenges assumptions that we, as a viewing audience in the U.S., may unconsciously or implicitly bring to these abstracted images of people who could be anyone. The project questions our potential to fall into easy stereotyping and misunderstanding of cultures that are not our own.

Taraneh Hemami received her MFA from California College of the Arts in 1991 and has exhibited regularly at national and international venues. When Hemami came to the United States in 1978 to attend the University of Oregon at Eugene, she had little idea of what the future held. Within a year of her arrival in this country, the Iranian Revolution had changed her homeland forever and prevented her from visiting for more than a decade. As an Iranian living in the United States, it's not surprising that Hemami's art would explore her complex relationship with the concept of home and her struggle to secure a sense of belonging from both her country of residence and the country and culture of her youth. In many ways, Hemami's art is her home. Influenced by Persian art, architecture and poetry, her multidisciplinary works explore the complex cultural politics of exile through personal and community projects and installations. She has received awards from the Creative Work Fund, the San Francisco Arts Commission, California Council for the Humanities, and the James Irvine Foundation. She has been an Artist in Resident at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Montalvo Center for the Arts, California Art Council, Kala Art Institute, and The Lab. She has exhibited her work locally at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, The Lab, Works, Berkeley Art Center, SFMOMA Artists Gallery, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Euprhat Museum of Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She is the 2005-2006 visiting artist at the Center for Public Life at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, CA.

Related Article:
Taraneh Hemami: Most Wanted - Open for InterpretationWalking up the stairs to the Intersection for the Arts gallery, potential spectators might be somewhat bewildered at the sight that greets them; coating the steps is a sheet of white felt, covered with ostensibly Persian names, in dispassionate block letters. - SF Station
 
 

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