Global/Local highlights three generations of artists who look to their Persian heritage as a source of inspiration while making works that transcend national boundaries. Of the six artists—Faramarz Pilaram (1937–1983), Parviz Tanavoli (b. 1937), Chohreh Feyzdjou (1955–1996), Shiva Ahmadi (b. 1975), Shahpour Pouyan (b. 1980), and Barbad Golshiri (b. 1982)—some have lived primarily in Iran, others settled permanently in Europe or America, and still others alternate between living in their homeland and abroad. Drawing on the Grey Art Gallery’s unparalleled collection of modern Iranian art and supplemented with loans, the show sheds light on the delicate balancing act required by artists working outside the art world’s still-dominant North American–Western European axis.
The first generation of artists in Global/Local found inspiration in Iran’s extraordinarily rich heritage of architecture, poetry, calligraphy, and folk arts. Looking as well to Persian miniature painting, the two later generations extend these strategies, working in a wide range of media to articulate their social and political critiques. From the promotion of Iranian modernism in the Pahlavi era (1925–1979) to the questioning of government authority during the 1979 Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), and the current Islamic Republic, all the artists have reconceived local forms to speak to global audiences.
With rising attention to the Middle East in recent decades, along with the current burgeoning of its art worlds, it is becoming increasingly urgent to reflect on the region’s visual culture. Since its founding in 1975, the Grey Art Gallery has been committed to presenting modern art from the Middle East and Asia. Placing six Iranian artists in the international context where they belong, Global/Local furthers this ongoing project. Along the way, it explores what the terms “modern” and “contemporary” can mean—not only in the context of art from Iran, but also in today’s art discourse in general.