In depicting locks on grillwork, Zenderoudi reveals his interest in Iranian folk culture.1 According to Shi’ite Muslim tradition, locks contain special powers. Devotees attach them to the doors of holy places in order to seek help from a saint (wali), or fasten them to the exterior grillwork as a symbolic reminder of the shrine’s power to resolve their problems. Such locks are also found on ceremonial public structures where drinking water is stored, which are called saqqakhaneh—the term that came to denote a major modern art movement in Iran. Zenderoudi was one of its earliest proponents, and grillwork became a favorite motif of 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.