Siah Armajani, Iranian American Sculptor, Named McKnight 2010 Distinguished Artist

Source: Philanthropy News Digest

Now in its thirteenth year, the McKnight Distinguished Artist program recognizes individual Minnesota artists who have made significant contributions to the quality of the state’s cultural life and includes a $50,000 cash prize. Armajani, who moved to the United States from Iran in 1960, is best known around the world for his public art and sculptures that reflect on American democracy, reference environmental contexts and architecture, and pay homage to leading poets, philosophers, and thinkers.

Armajani has exhibited at top venues like the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Tate in London, and the thirty-ninth Venice Biennale.

“Siah Armajani is one of Minnesota’s great assets, an ambassador to the world,” said McKnight Foundation president Kate Wolford. “One fundamental role of great art is to help us interpret and understand our world. Never shying away from reality as he sees it, Siah shines a spotlight on life’s challenges and inequities. He unites humankind’s hardest truths with the optimism that we can do better if we acknowledge and understand the bridges that brought us here.”
Max Protetch Gallery is pleased to announce Murder In Tehran, an exhibition of new work by Siah Armajani in its Project Space. The exhibition runs from Tuesday, October 20 through Wednesday, December 23. The artist will be present at the opening reception on Tuesday, October 20, from 6:00 to 8:00pm. For select members of the press there will be a special artist’s preview prior to the opening.

Murder In Tehran is a single major work of new sculpture. Conceived and created by the Iranian-born, Minneapolis-based Armajani in the months following the June 12, 2009 Iranian presidential elections, Murder In Tehran is a powerful political and formal statement. It represents an act born of outrage and solidarity with the Iranian people which combines elements of sculpture, architecture, and literature.

Measuring 11 × 6 × 6 feet, and composed of glass, wood, gravel, cast body parts, felt, masonite, paint, and applied poetry from the major contemporary Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlu, Murder In Tehran pays particular tribute to the sacrifices made by women in the 2009 protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election to the Iranian presidency. This was perhaps most evident in the brutal shooting of Neda, whose death became an iconic image broadcast around the world. The work also commemorates the way in which Iranians took to their balconies in the days following June 12, to proclaim ‘God is Great!’ and denounce the government.

Murder In Tehran features a balcony-like structure that supports a human figure. This tableaux calls to mind the popular uprising of Iranians on their rooftops. Iran has a long history of martyrs who have lost their lives fighting for freedom and social justice, and Armajani’s work recognizes their central role in the course of Iranian culture.

At the base of the sculpture lie scattered casts of body parts littered among the gravel, a reference to the mass shallow graves that were found in different parts of Tehran in the weeks following the protests. Among them is a bloody hatchet, an illustration of the Shamlu poem whose text is inscribed on the sides of the piece: ‘The man who comes in the noon of the night/ has come to kill the light.// There the butchers are posted in the passageways/ with bloody chopping blocks and cleavers…’ By placing a sculptural illustration in proximity to the text itself, Armajani employs a technique present in ancient Persian miniatures, which contain illustration, description, and poetry on a single page.

There are also seven drawings in the show titled MURDER IN TEHRAN (AFTER GOYA), pencil on mylar.

Siah Armajani, born in Iran in 1939 and based in Minneapolis, is represented in some of the most important museum collections worldwide, including those of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Walker Art Center, MAMCO Geneva, the Stedelijk Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and the Museum für Moderne Kunst. He has had recent one-person exhibitions at MAMCO, Geneva; The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City; and Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.


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