If you are planning a trip to the Guggenheim Museum to see the On Kawara Exhibit – which is pretty sweet – you may be disappointed to discover that the Art Nazis are out in full force, forbidding photography in the Rotunda. And, frankly, that sucks, because if I can’t take pictures, it’s like I wasn’t even there.
Fortunately for those of us to like to capture and share the memory of seeing of great art, the Guggenheim is also currently hosting the very fantastic Infinite Possibility: Mirror Works and Drawings -1974-2014 featuring the work of Persian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, whose artistic practice weds the geometric patterns and cut-glass mosaic techniques of her Iranian heritage with the rhythms of modern Western geometric abstraction.
This is the first U.S. museum exhibition of mirror works and drawings by Farmanfarmaian (b. Qazvin, Iran, 1922) and it was also my first introduction to her work, which is just amazing. To provide some background on this accomplished artist, Monir spent formative years (1945 to 1957) working in New York, during which she met artists Milton Avery, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, and, later, Andy Warhol, among others. She returned to Iran in 1957.
There, she further developed her artistic sensibility through encounters with traditional craftsmanship, indigenous art forms such as Turkoman jewelry and clothing, coffee house paintings (a popular form of Iranian narrative paintings), and the technique of reverse-glass painting, resulting in a period of artistic discovery that culminated in commissions in Iran and exhibitions in Europe and the United States.
Mirror Detail (Above) and Study (Below)
The Islamic Revolution in 1979 marked the beginning of Monir’s 26-year exile in New York, during which she focused on drawing, collage, commissions, and carpet and textile design. In 2004, when she finally returned to Iran, she reestablished her studio there and resumed working with some of the same craftsmen she had collaborated with in the 1970s.
The exhibit includes plaster and mirror reliefs, large-scale mirror sculptures the artist refers to as “geometric families,” and works on paper, revealing the central role drawing has played in Monir’s practice and focusing on a sculptural and graphic oeuvre developed over more than 40 years (many examples of which have not been displayed publicly since the 1970s).
This body of work is characterized by a merging of visual and spatial experience, coupled with the aesthetic traditions of Islamic architecture and decoration. Her use of geometry as form allows for, in the artist’s words, “infinite possibility.”
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility. Mirror Works and Drawings 1974–2014 will be on Exhibit Through June 3rd, 2015 at the Guggenheim Museum, Located at 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street) in New York City.