Brazil x Iran Colors and Forms
February 2 through 15, 2023
BY MARY HRBACEK, February 2023
High Line Gallery 4 presents an exhibition of recent works by twenty Brazilian and Iranian artists, curated by Iranian Roya Khadjavi, and Brazilian Flavia Tamoyo. In the dead of a New York winter, this engaging diverse salon style exhibition comes as a revelation, where creativity and inclusiveness are the threads that weave together the energies of cross-cultural collaboration. The curators selected works whose forms and colors combine to express a unique take on the artists’ personal lives and concerns, that speak to issues both public and private dominating their thoughts. The show includes Maritza Caneca, Afsaneh Djabbari Aslani, Sylvia Martins, Dana Nehdaran, Malekeh Nayiny, Rona Neves, Zahra Nazari, Anna Paola Protasio, Maryam Palizgir, Mana Sazegara, Atieh Sohrabi, Bruno Schmidt, Erick Vittorino, Vincent Rosenblatt, Dariush Nehdaran, Mana Sazegara, Faraaz Zabetian, Malekeh Nayiny, Atieh Sohrabi, and Farnaz Zabetian.
The curators have made no effort to fit the artists into one mode of expression; rather this show is a celebration of creativity and diversity, in paintings, photographs, sculpture and colored drawings in non-objective or figurative modes of expression. The juxtapositions of the works emphasize the positive global consciousness of appreciation that defines the co-creation of Iranian and Brazilian artists, whose art seems to revel in the differences among them that accentuate individuality. There is no self-censorship of the participants’ emotions or their preferences. These international artists display mastery of their successive mediums. Each one articulates their skills to present completed works that speak with an authoritative sense of purpose and intention.
This show is not pain-based, it is pleasure-based. Alberto Giacometti would perhaps not respond to this, when his own works are focused on the anguish of his models in long poses. It is actually a joy to view works in a show that breaks out of a “serious” mold, to make fractured sense of the outward and inner visions, be they of Dana Nehdaran’s abstract compositions which feature textures, shapes, line, movement and weight, or figurative visions of a well-painted serene woman pictured at rest in her home surroundings. The family portrait by Melekeh Nayiny that includes a Mom, a boy and a girl plus their Teddy Bear, is brought down to earth by what appears to be a stream of blood gushing from a gash on the girl’s knee. The swirling pattern on the background wall speaks of the consternation/euphoria the mother must alternatively be feeling given the demands of her offspring.
The floral shapes and textured surface displayed in Sylvia Martins’ transparent green and white petals and bio-forms edged with pale rose and orange reveal a nostalgic sense of the passing bounties of nature as we once knew it, and whose memories still haunt us. Afsaneh Djabbari Aslani’s acrylic on canvas “Juxtaposition” reveals a kind of kaleidoscopic dream space one can enter on the lower left and pivot through the airy atmosphere of the free-floating expanse. The emotionally charged yet subdued red underpinning supports cut-out rectangles and hexagrams in a work that provides a feeling of relaxed euphoric freedom.
The video entitled “Swimmer,” by Maitza Caneca, provides a blue expanse of moving water in which swimmers are luxuriating, in an indoor pool flanked by classical architectural columns, which lend a sense of connection with Romans in their baths in antiquity. Maryam Palizgir’s gorgeous painterly archival pigment print on canvas “Epiphany,” # 0311 in the series, depicts in its beautifully blended harmonious interior, architectural shapes and veiled serene looking window panes that interact with dark shadows in tones of reflected light. The warm golds and brown tints wash over the surfaces to display a mysterious welcoming juxtaposition wedded to shadows. The shadows contrast with deep dark intersections that promise a mysterious world of wonder and contemplation.
In Zahra Nazari’s non-objective acrylic painting “Circle of Life,” intersecting pink circular forms swirl and vibrate to provide the impression of excited thought processes at work within one’s brain. This activity contrasts with the serenity and light of Maryam Palizgir’s “Epiphany” #0084, 2018. The unexpected, wrenching quality of Farnaz Zabetian’s oil on canvas painting entitled “Cherry Blossom” that expresses a fraught combination of Id-inspired blossoms with twigs that relate to the fingers that grasp the upturned face. This relationship evokes a sensation of pain that may be related to the early death of a warrior hero, in a figurative vision infused with unaccountable white bubbles. In Japan, the brief life of cherry blossoms is symbolic of fallen heroes who die young. Rona Neves’s multi-media work “Young Warrior” seems to commemorate the passing in youth of a beloved hero, signifying the torment of a life sacrificed for the good of others.
Vincent Rosenblatt’s “Bate-bola” #57, #73, and #86 shift one’s attention and emotions to an Edition of Fine Art Prints on baryta paper shot in Rio De Janeiro in 2017. Their presence changes the temperature and impact of the show, animating it with an otherworldly spiritual presence in rituals and displays that diverge sharply from Western religious practices. The costumes, painted participants, flaming fire and atmospheric pink smoke suggest practices and crucial spiritual deities with energy wildly diverging from the Islamic or Judeo-Christian traditions. Mana Sazegara’s laminated, ultra-light MDF acrylic mirror probably appeals to individuals who don’t mind a vibe of glitz and glam in their homes! The bright multi-colored reflective column, split into block-like rectangular shapes, seems geared toward the flamboyant spirit of youth and fashion designers.
In his two acrylic on canvas works, “Muitas Cores” (many colors) Bruno Schmidt fragments the picture plane into active narrow linear forms interspersed with rounded shapes cut flat in overlapping areas. The lively works pay tribute to early modernist artists such as Paul Klee and Vasily Kandinsky; they encourage us to move beyond visual perception in art, to experience the range of feelings the panoply of interacting colors evokes. Atieh Sohrabi’s acrylic on cardstock piece entitled “Persian Flowers” provides a view of three young women’s faces set within panels with floral motifs that refer, in a compressed Gothic pictorial space, to the charming façades of youth with its attendant beauty. In a strong take on Picasso and Matisse, Erick Vittorino highlights the four seasons with linear nude female figures, that merge with the bio-forms of nature in a tree-filled forest.
Examples of works that take a different turn are Dariush Nehdaran’s “Psychedelic Mosque,” Digital Photography Gelatin Silver Print, and Anna Paola Protasio in “Waving a Blue Sea,” made with tambourines, paint and steel cables. “Psychedelic Mosque” displays a somewhat hazy multicolored vision of a religious interior with shaped windows and spaced columns, seen one guesses through the filter of a pleasurable high. This image perhaps ties religious beliefs to the beauty and un-reality of an induced vision. The wall-based tambourine work introduces the rhythms of music made by hand-held instruments into the stirring experimental elements on view.
As Brazil and Iran struggle with political tensions and unrest that verges on conflict, the artists have maintained an equilibrium in their art and production processes. The mirrored works may express the aesthetic predilection of a southern, more high-spirited continent, but their outspoken vibes activate us to wonder at the level of powerful feelings mixed cultures revel in. I recently viewed a large group show in which the talented artists felt compelled to dilute their individuality in hopes of conforming to the group energy. This is to me the antithesis of creativity. In another group show that includes several Modern Masters, many of the contemporary works say little and evoke less. If artists explore their authentic selves with energy, drive and determination, they can in their own right become “Masters.”
At the Grammy Award Ceremony, the hosts lauded those of their peers who put everything on the line in musical performances designed to launch them to the top of their fields. They go all in with the sincere energy in support of diversity in our culture, which is something the art world needs to expand, more than ever. It is time for fine and visual artists to gain inspiration from the contemporary world of music, and by the outrageous outfits of the flamboyant fashion designers whose fabrics are themselves often influenced by art. The spirit of “Iran x Brazil” makes a good start in the direction of enriching art through collaboration. WM
Mary Hrbacek is an artist who has been writing about art in New York City since the late 1990s. She has had more than one hundred reviews published in The M Magazine/The New York Art World, and has written in print and on-line NY Artbeat.com, Artes Magazine, d’Art International, Culture Catch.com and Whitehot Magazine. Her commentary spans a broad spectrum, from the contemporary cutting-edge to the Old Masters.view all articles from this author