On Saturday, October 16, the James Gray Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica hosted a highly-anticipated and well-received opening reception of an art exhibition called Echoes in Blue.
Curated by Iranian-born Homa Taraji, in association with Dr. Alireza Sami Azar, former director of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and a consultant to Christie's, this show features the works of 10 artists living and working in Iran today and is intended to introduce their work to Americans.
Now in its third week,
Echoes in Blue prepares to close on Sunday, November 14, with a
closing reception scheduled for Friday, November 12 from 6pm to
9pm at the gallery. But before it does,
Butterfly Buzz took some time to chat with its curator, Taraji, to gain
a firsthand perspective on how Echoes has been received in Los
Angeles, a city with a large Iranian population, and the significance of such an
exhibition in today's climate.
Q: We understand you had an opening reception on October 16. How did that go and since then, what sort of response have you received from audiences?
A:The reception was phenomenal! About a thousand people passed through the gallery that night and expressed their amazement at the beauty and quality of the artwork. Everyone seemed to enjoy the work and many talked to me about the work, the artists, issues they face and challenges of bringing the work here. Since then, we have had many well wishers and some buyers.
Q: Tell us briefly about some of the artists featured in this exhibition.
A: They each have long, impressive resumes. But here is a quick glance at a few of them:
Hossein Khosrojerdi, who participated in the Venice Biennial in 2003, portrays characters with no identity. He depicts various social, political, and even environmental topics including a search for one's identity inspite of the restrictions set by Islamic rules.
Amirhossein Zanjani depicts the ruins of once spectacular historical buildings, symbols of Iranian heritage, which have been marginalized due to the emphasis on Islamic heritage rather than the Persian heritage. The Persian heritage goes back a thousand years before Islam was introduced in Iran.
Ahmad Morshedloo captures ordinary people in what seems to be an eternal "waiting" mode; indifferent and bored, filled with ennui, they are just "waiting".
Golnaz Fathi is an internationally recognized artist who uses calligraphy as the basis for her vibrant, abstract paintings. Her work has been extremely popular at auctions and solo exhibitions as well as museum acquisitions around the world.
Q: You mention that people have asked you about the challenges involved with this exhibition. What might some of the challenges be that artists face in Iran?
A: The art market in Iran is strong and the number of art galleries is growing fast. There are about 100 galleries in Tehran alone.
That being said, the challenges are numerous. Since certain subjects offensive to religion and politics are forbidden, artists have to find a way to express themselves without facing censorship. Not every work is allowed to be exhibited. A review by government authorities must take place prior to the exhibition and the work would only be exhibited if found "acceptable." This often causes a problem, which can sometimes turn into an interesting episode, of which I will give you an example...
There was an artist, whose work was deemed acceptable by authorities and therefore had planned an exhibition. On the opening day, some information about the artist resulted in authorities deciding to ban the exhibition. There were only a few hours left to the opening and the gallery owner, who was expecting a big turnout, did not know what to do. So, since only the artworks themselves were banned, she took the works out of their frames and hung the empty frames on the wall. Next to each empty frame, she included a caption describing the piece that was intended to be in the frame.
When the audience arrived, they first were not sure how to react. But after a while, someone decided to purchase one of the frames (the artwork would be delivered later). Then someone else followed suit and soon others joined in. The exhibition was sold out!
Q: What is the significance of an exhibition of artworks coming from Iran in the current climate?
A: Since 2002, I have organized several exhibitions of contemporary Iranian artwork in the U.S. Early on, people would look at these beautiful, rich paintings only as decorative pieces and were willing to purchase them for that purpose. Since 2006, with the International Modern and Contemporary Art Auctions by leading auction houses such as Christi's in Dubai and Europe, the field of Iranian contemporary art has grown exponentially within the international art market. This has resulted in huge interest in their work and made collecting this art a very attractive investment.
Another area of significance in having this exhibition is to show the American public another face of Iranian people, which is often misrepresented by the rhetoric of the hardline regime in Iran. I hope that through this exhibition, and others like it, people will see that Iranian people - like most people in the world - can live and communicate in peace.
Don't miss Echoes in Blue, currently exhibited at the James Gray Gallery, located at the Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, #D4, Santa Monica, CA 90404. The exhibition will conclude its run on Sunday, November 14, with a closing reception scheduled for Friday, November 12, from 6pm to 9pm. For more information on the exhibit, please call 310.489.2417 or visit www.jamesgraygallery.com.
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