The art of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian reflects a life lived between two cultures. It combines the rich patterns and geometry found in the folk art heritage of her native Iran with the modern abstract art of the New York City avant garde.
Monir Farmanfarmaian had planned to follow her University of Tehran art training with an education in Paris, but World War II got in the way. She worked and studied in the U.S. until 1957, studying dance with Martha Graham, and hanging out with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Larry Rivers. When she was making ends meet working in the Bonwit Teller advertising department, her co-worker and friend was Andy Warhol.
Everything changed with 1979 Iranian Revolution and the crackdown that followed. Stranded in New York, their home was confiscated, her artwork destroyed. It would be another 25 years before she could return. She's in her 90s now, and thanks to eased censorship and political reform, she's still working. She returned to Iran following her marriage to Abolbashar Farmanfarmaian, and the couple were social mainstays in a high time for Iranian art. They hosted the Kennedys, entertained visiting curators, and exhibited extensively in her country and even in the Venice Biennale. She had forged her own form of geometric abstraction, one based in both Islamic tradition and Modernism.
In 2015 she had a major exhibition at the Guggenheim and was internationally hailed by the media, the critics, and the gallery-going public. A documentary was made of her amazing life, and early on in that film, she established her unassuming tone. "I'm just a person with a good eye who happens to work with mirrors."
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.