Zenderoudi reveals his interest in Iranian folk culture by depicting locks on grillwork.1 In Shiite Muslim culture, locks are believed to contain special powers. Devotees clasp locks on the doors or grillwork of holy places in order to seek help from a saint, or fasten their own locks to the exterior grillwork as a symbolic reminder of the power of the shrine to resolve their problems.2 These locks were tied to ceremonial public structures known as saqqakhaneh, the term that would eventually denote a movement of modern art in Iran. Zenderoudi was one of its earliest proponents, and grillwork became a fairly common motif for Iranian artists associated with the Saqqakhaneh movement during the 1960s—Parviz Tanavoli’s Hands of a Poet, also in the NYU Art Collection, is another example.
1. Shiva Balaghi, “Abby Weed Grey and Parviz Tanavoli,” http://www.nyu.edu/greyart/collection/iranian%20art/essaytanavoli_home.html.
2. Parviz Tanavoli and John T. Wertime, Locks from Iran: Pre-Islamic to Twentieth Century (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, 1976), 20–24.