Unearthed at Frieze Masters: The Iranian-Inspired Art of Marcos Grigorian

Elemental in every sense of the word, the art of Marcos Grigorian excavates the materials of the earth and arranges them into forms of modernism. It is elemental in its focus on materials—straw, wood, soil compound, raw earth, coarse burlap canvas, even staple items of food—left raw or painted in colors that evoke those of nature. It is elemental in its forms, often employing the square, a familiar shape of abstract conceptual art, but also a symbolic referent for fire, sun, earth, and water. And it is elemental in its impact on the viewer. 

Born in Russia to Armenian parents, Grigorian studied first in Iran and then in Rome under the Cubist sculptor Roberto Melli before returning to Tehran to embrace the features of Iranian folk art and the realities of everyday life there, while reinterpreting these through his modernist education. He became central to the city’s growing art scene, teaching, and opening one of its first galleries. As one critic remarks, he quite “literally embraced his adopted land”, turning “dried earth into cracked reliefs.” These important Earthworks will receive their full due at Leila Heller Gallery’s booth at Frieze Masters 2014. The gallery will present most of the remaining works from the 1960s, that currently still belong to the family collection.

While Western modernism is characterized by geometric forms, the patterns of mathematics are, in the East, those of tradition. The abstract aesthetics that European influences brought with them were not without controversy in the Middle East. The definition of what is “modern” and what is customary is always in fluctuation. But as Grigorian’s subsequent move to the U.S. reflects, his practice was wedded to neither East nor West, but more solidly, to the ground itself.  From the Iranzamin—the earth of the Iran—to the high skies of international art, Grigorian’s cross-global reference points will spur collectors to look back to his humble, yet cosmopolitan, roots.

—Hannah Gregory

Marcos Grigorian’s work will be on view at Leila Heller Gallery, Frieze Masters 2014, Spotlight, Booth S13, Oct. 15th - Oct. 19th.

Discover more artists at Leila Heller Gallery and Explore Frieze London 2014 on Artsy.

Share article