Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (1922-2019) was one of Iran’s most famous and revered visual artists, known internationally for her mirrored geometric sculptures which combined the mathematical order and beauty of ancient Persian architectural motifs with the forms and patterns of post-war abstraction. . The High Museum of Art will present the first posthumous exhibition of his work in an American museum with Monir Farmanfarmaian: A Mirror Garden (Nov 18, 2022-April 9, 2023).
The exhibition was inspired by the High’s 2019 acquisition of Farmanfarmaian’s 2012 cut-mirror sculpture Untitled (Muqarnas) (2012) and his 2014 drawing Untitled (Circles and Squares). Muqarnas was acquired with funds from the Farideh & Al Azadi Foundation as part of a major gift to the Woodruff Arts Center, of which the High is an artistic partner, to purchase and display works by Persian artists.
“Untitled (Murqarnas) is one of the most popular works on display in our collection galleries. We are delighted to feature more of Farmanfarmaian’s work and, in doing so, provide a broader context for understanding his creative process and his practice,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., manager.
Michael Rooks, High’s Wieland Family Curator for Modern and Contemporary Art, added: “We are honored to recognize Farmanfarmaian’s significance as a singular creative force through this exhibition. For generations of artists in post-revolutionary Iran, Farmanfarmaian represents the paradigm of an independent society. artist whose work was unfettered by the histories and customs of his context but existed in conversation with contemporary artistic practices across cultures. At the same time, his work reflects a deep understanding and respect for Iranian culture.
The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Farmanfarmaian’s 2007 memoir, co-written by Zara Houshmand, which evokes the visual splendor of the artist’s mosaic-mirror sculptures. The more than 60 works presented in the exhibition will include a selection of sculptures, drawings, textiles and collages spanning four decades, from 1974 to 2018. The first drawings explore the infinity of geometric space and the countless possible variations of the geometric pattern , while his Nomadic Tents series, from the late 1970s, employs different combinations of shapes based on the triangle. Farmanfarmaian’s nomadic tents refer to the nomadic tribes of Iran that the artist studied in his youth and foreshadow the artist’s diasporic relationship with his homeland after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Additionally, the exhibition will feature a selection of rarely seen Heartache Boxes, small-scale assemblages that constitute a poetic visual memory of the artist’s mid-career life. Started after the death of her husband in 1991, the elaborately designed Heartache Boxes are arranged with objects related to desire, memory and dreams. They include prints, photographs, and a variety of artifacts that reference the artist’s life, times, and career, including thumbnail images of his early work and references to his “lost” life. ” in Tehran before the Iranian revolution.
The exhibition will also include a range of mirror mosaic sculptures by the artist throughout his career. Farmanfarmaian’s best-known sculptures combine fragments of mirror and reverse glass painting in resplendent mosaic patterns, using a 17th-century Persian technique called aineh-kari. Some of his early mosaics were made in the form of mirrored balls, such as Mirror Ball (1974), which demonstrates the endless possibilities of mosaic patterns on a sphere. Farmanfarmaian’s mirror balls foreshadow the artist’s later sculpture, notable for its intricate patterns and intricate form.
Among the late works in the exhibition, Untitled (Muqarnas), from the Upper collection, refers to the honeycomb ceilings of Persian sanctuaries and palaces, while its wing-like forms recall the wings of the Faravahar, an ancient Zoroastrian symbol linked to Persian cultural identity. . Another late work, titled Gabbeh (2009), features a triangular pattern formed by overlapping hexagons that serves as the basis for an irregular combination of colored polygons, arcs and diagonals. Its title refers to a type of Persian rug produced by nomadic weavers. The exhibition also includes a selection of silk rugs designed by Farmanfarmaian.
Between 2010 and 2014, Farmanfarmaian produced a series of works she called “families” – five groupings of eight sculptures based on the eight regular polygons of Euclidean geometry. The exhibition will present the eight geometric shapes drawn from several “families”. The variation of form, pattern and structure in families will demonstrate the advanced complexity of the artist’s concept while more broadly exposing the fluidity of geometry and fundamental mathematical principles central to Farmanfarmaian’s practice.
The exhibit will be on the second level of the high school’s Anne Cox Chambers wing.
About the artist
Born in Qazvin, Iran in 1922, Farmanfarmaian studied at Tehran University’s College of Fine Arts in the early 1940s, then traveled to New York to continue her studies. There she attended the Parsons School of Design, Cornell University, and the Arts Student League. In New York, Farmanfarmaian absorbed the development of geometric abstraction and observed its burgeoning permutations in contemporary art. His community of friends and fellow artists included Milton Avery, Alexander Calder, Joan Mitchell, Louise Nevelson, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and others. These experiences, combined with his extensive knowledge of Iranian arts and crafts, resulted in his personal vision of a truly global modernity.
After her marriage in 1957, the artist returned to Iran, where she began to study, collect and preserve the traditional decorative arts of her native country. However, the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought Farmanfarmaian and his family back to New York, where they would remain in exile for the next 26 years. In 2004, Farmanfarmaian returned to Tehran, re-establishing a workshop where she worked with some of the same artisans she had known in the 1970s.
The artist first received special attention in 1958, when she received a gold medal for her work in the Iranian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, leading to exhibitions in Tehran, Paris and New York. Since then, his work has been shown in major institutions and in exhibitions around the world. More recently major retrospective exhibitions of his work have been presented at the Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Fundação de Serralves, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto.
Farmanfarmaian’s work is included in major public collections around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; the Museum of Modern Art in Tehran; Tate Modern, London; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
She is the subject of the monograph Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Cosmic Geometry, edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist, and is co-author of his autobiography, A Mirror Garden (Knopf, 2007). In December 2017, the Monir Museum opened in Tehran, the only museum dedicated to a single female artist in Iran.