Exhibition by Mahmoud Bakhshi
7 February-22 March 2014
Private View on Thursday, 6 February 2014, 6-8pm
35 Riding House Street
London W1W 7EA
narrative projects is pleased to announce a solo exhibition by Mahmoud Bakhshi, the first of his in a commercial gallery space in London. Bakhshi’s art deals with a visual aesthetic that developed in Iran in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. He reflects on the recent history of Iran through a recontextualisation of the official symbolism of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and uses deeper historical and traditional formal references to ground this recent history within the larger context of Iranian identity.
At narrative gallery, Bakhshi presents a number of sculptures and a series of digital drawings from a larger cross-disciplinary project entitled TalkCloud. The entire project was exhibited earlier this year at Niavaran Cultural Centre in Tehran. The project’s conceptual core is the multifaceted and multilayered relationship between art and power-holding systems in Iran and elsewhere. This relationship has been a longstanding subject of artistic enquiry for Bakhshi. In this new body of work he is looking into the very origins of the notion of so-called ‘political engagement’ in art. But it is not just political power that Bakhshi is interested in. He is equally concerned with the interaction between art and capital, another stakeholder in this rivalry for authority.
The drawing series Hard copy is an ongoing project that the artist started in 2012. These digital drawings, made using coloured ink, reference familiar propaganda iconography that glorifies martyrs in the Iran-Iraq war. Bakhshi transforms them into simple, childlike drawings, using formal alterations to trigger conceptual metamorphoses. He takes these images out of their charged context, the detached realm of ‘heroic propaganda’, and turns them into schematic, nearly abstract graphic symbols.
The four lightbox sculptures formally recall traditional Persian calligraphy, but, instead of famous verses of poetry, they reference well-known phrases that comment on the social role of art. The quotes include expressions by the leaders of the Iranian Islamic and Russian Bolshevik revolutions – Khomeini and Lenin – alongside those by the current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and the ideologue of the ‘artistic engagement’ and Social Realism, Anatoliy Lunacharsky.
The contrast between the content of the phrases, which call attention to a social role of art, and their presentation in the shape of embellished ornament, creates a conceptually charged paradox. At the same time, the diverse industrial materials used to produce the works underline Bakhshi’s fascination with the brutal aesthetics and materiality of Arte Povera.
About the Artist
Mahmoud Bakhshi (b. 1977, Tehran). His previous exhibitions include TalkCloud, Niavaran Cultural Centre, Tehran, 2014; Love Me/ Love Me Not, Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbors, The 55th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, Venice, 2013; DISASTER, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris-Pantin, 2013; Transformed Visions, Tate Modern, London, 2012; Hard Copy, Art Gwangju 2012; Bah Man, Aun Gallery, Tehran and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, 2011; The Engaged Artist: Influences of Graphics on Sculpture in the Middle Ages, Saatchi Gallery (Project Room), London, 2010; Last Ride in a Hot Air Balloon, The 4th Auckland Triennial, 2010; Iran: New Voices (Exploring Contemporary Iranian Film and Video Art), Barbican Centre, London, 2008; Lion under the Rainbow (Contemporary Art from Tehran), Athens, 2008; Iran.Com, Iranian Art today, Museum of New Art, Freiburg, 2006.
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