SCAD Museum of Art presents a solo exhibition of the work of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. The artist has rigorously explored the possibilities of form across artistic media and disciplines since the 1970s. "Lineages" features a selection of mirrored sculptural mosaics and geometric drawings. The exhibition is composed primarily of artwork created since 2011, but also includes a series of small drawings from 1977 that informs these more recent works and illuminates the artist's longstanding concerns of line, color and composition.
Farmanfarmaian works in series she calls "families," a term that indicates formal and conceptual connections linking works. She establishes initial aesthetic parameters for the series relating to composition, then applies these guidelines to shapes ranging from triangles to decagons. Despite these self-imposed rules, Farmanfarmaian states, "These geometric forms are miracles…One can create so much art based on them; they generate thousands of ideas. They offer infinite possibilities." To this end, she intuitively selects surface patterning and color to enhance her initial framework
Farmanfarmaian's interests and influences are wide-ranging and informed by a lifetime spent between her native Iran and the U.S. Her work is a fusion of traditional Iranian techniques and materials and contemporary art movements. As she explains, "I'm taking old forms and making them modern." Within Sufism, which the artist has extensively studied, geometric forms contain symbolic references — associations Farmanfarmaian embraces. The artist's ever-changing — even, at times, disorienting — sculptural surfaces have drawn comparisons to the 20th century movements such as Op and Kinetic Art. Ultimately, however, her works largely defy categorizations, and are the product of circumstances uniquely her own.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Cosmic Geometry is the first substantial survey of her acclaimed geometric works, and features an in-depth interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist; critical essays by Nader Ardalan, Media Farzin and Eleanor Sims; warm tributes by Farmanfarmaian's friends; an excerpt from The Sense of Unity: The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture by Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiar (1973); and an annotated timeline of Farmanfarmaian's life by Negar Azimi. Farmanfarmaian spent her childhood in a grand old house replete with stained glass, wall paintings and nightingales. Coming of age during World War II, she left occupied Iran and audaciously set out for New York, where she was quickly absorbed into the city's thriving avant-garde. In the decades to follow, during successive exiles in Tehran and New York, Farmanfarmaian developed an intuitive yet painstakingly crafted artistic practice in mirror mosaic and reverse-painted glass that weds the cosmic patterning of her Iranian heritage with the rhythms of modern Western geometric abstraction.