Thursday, November 05, 2009

Murder in Tehran: Siah Armajani

Conceived and created in the months following the June 12, 2009 Iranian presidential election, “Murder in Tehran” is an important new work of sculpture by Siah Armajani. Running through December 23rd at the Project Space of Max Protetch Gallery, this installation is a powerful political and formal statement. While it represents an act of outrage and solidarity with the Iranian people, it combines elements of sculpture, architecture, and literature.

Composed of glass, wood, gravel, cast body parts, felt, masonite, paint, and applied and poetry from contemporary and Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000), “Murder in Tehran” scrutinizes sacrifices made by women in the 2009 protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “reelection” to the Iranian presidency. This sacrifice was illustrated most starkly in the shooting of Neda, whose death was broadcast throughout the globe. The installation also commemorates the way in which Iranians took to their balconies to denounce the government and the policies of the Revolutionary Guard in the days following June 12.

Featuring a balcony-like structure supporting a “human” figure, the tableaux of “Murder in Tehran” recalls the popular uprising of Iranians on their rooftops. With its long history of martyrs losing their lives in pursuit of freedom and justice, Armajani’s work recognizes their various roles in Iranian history.

At the base of this sculpture, the viewer will see scattered casts of body parts littered among the gravel—a reference to the mass shallow graves found in various corners of Tehran in the weeks following the unrest. In the midst of the body parts is a bloody hatchet, an illustration of the Shamlou 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…” In placing a sculptural illustration in proximity to the text itself, Armajani employs a technique found in ancient Persian miniatures that contain illustration, description, and poetry on a single page. Additionally, one finds seven pencil-on-mylar drawings in the show entitled “Murder in Tehran (After Goya)”

The works of Minneapolis-based Siah Armajani have been seen in such prestigious venues as MoMA, the Guggenheim, Walker Art Gallery (Denver), MAMCO (Geneva), the Stedelijk (Amsterdam), the Hirshhorn, Museum fur Moderne Kunst, the Nelsen-Atkins Museum (Kansas City), and Madrid’s Reina Sofia. While Siah Armanjani might be best known for having designed the Olympic torch pressing over the ill-fated 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, he has also created “Between the Lakes” (an installation exploring the various teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson) at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Gazebo for Two Anarchists: Gabriella Antolini and Alberto Antolini (an architectural sculpture in Mountainville, New York), and “Fallujah” (a modern take on Picasso’s “Guernica”).

Murder in Tehran: Siah Armajani

Through December 23, 2009

@ Max Protetch Project Space

511 West 22nd Street, NYC 10011

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