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Current Exhibition Farhad Moshiri: Go West

October 13, 2017–January 14, 2018

Artwork resembles a lush white layer cake with frosted borders and decorative toppings. Close inspection also reveals the elaborate beadwork used to construct a menagerie of images sourced from vintage postcards: sweethearts in love, domesticated animals, and exotic flower arrangements.

Farhad Moshiri, Once Upon a Time, 2011, courtesy of The Third Line, Dubai, photographed by Christopher Pike

Go West is the first solo museum exhibition of Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri.

Encompassing several bodies of work created over decades, Farhad Moshiri: Go West explores the artist’s varied subject matter, deft use of language, and wide-ranging materials and methods. Moshiri addresses contemporary Iran’s traditions and historic isolationism, and simultaneously acknowledges the powerful appeal and influence of Western culture in his homeland. Born in 1963 in Shiraz, Iran, Moshiri spent a portion of his formative years in the United States during the Iranian Revolution, returning to Iran years later as a young adult and artist.

The exhibition brings together paintings and sculptures that have never been displayed together, many of which are traveling to the United States for the first time. Highlighting Moshiri’s artistic techniques and the subtle transformations unfolding in his work, Go West reveals his evolution as both a painter and a sculptor.

The exhibition is curated by José Carlos Diaz, The Warhol’s chief curator.

Farhad Moshiri: Go West is generously supported by The Fine Foundation, Piaget, Galerie Perrotin, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, The Third Line, Dubai, The Soudavar Memorial Foundation, The Farjam Foundation, The Khazaei Foundation, Maryam and Edward Eisler, Navid Mirtorabi, Ziba Franks, Elie Khouri, Fatima and Essi Maleki, Nazee Moinian, Mahshid and Jamshid Ehsani, and Narmina and Javad Marandi.

PiagetThe Third Line, Dubai Galerie Thaddaeus RopacGalerie Perrotin logoSoudavar Memorial Foundation The Farjam Foundation

Publication

Go West: Farhad Moshiri

Farhad Moshiri: Go West was produced to accompany the 2017 exhibition of the same name. Moshiri’s richly embellished paintings and sculptures explore the intersection of eastern and western popular culture, the tension between traditional craft and contemporary art practice, and the malleable nature of identity. The volume includes essays by contemporary art history scholars and is illustrated with full-color images of pieces in the exhibition as well as documentary photographs of the artist at work.

Mitra M. Abbaspour, Shiva Balaghi, and Jose Diaz
Limited edition hardcover (four versions), 132 pages, 68 illustrations
The Andy Warhol Museum, 2017

Stack of Go West catalogs in various color schemes

Kitsch and Pop

Moshiri’s interest in Pop art and kitsch resonates throughout his work. Many of his visuals are pulled from cartoons, films, comic strips, children’s books, and advertisements, while phrases appropriated from classical poetry, soap operas, and pop songs blur the lines between art and cliché. By selecting ambiguous source images that reference both American and Iranian popular culture, Moshiri takes a complex look at how we define our own cultural identity.

Embroidery of a cartoon-like character dressed like a cowboy and riding a truck through the desert.

Farhad Moshiri, Yipeeee, 2009, Embroidery and acrylic on canvas on board, private collection, photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli

Moshiri was first introduced to American films at his father’s local movie theater. He watched movies such as John Wayne’s Stagecoach (1939) dubbed in Farsi. In classic Westerns, the American landscape was presented as a frontier with big skies and endless opportunities for glory, revenge, and romance. As Moshiri grew older and relocated to the United States, his impression of the West became more complex, tinged with humor, irony, and satire. Like Warhol, Moshiri appropriates imagery from found sources, such as the mechanical Rodeo Joe toy that inspired Yipeeee.

Mundane Materialism

In his work, Moshiri often transforms mundane materials such as plastic pearls, glass beads, acrylic paint, crystals, knives, and machine-made Persian rugs into intricate, laborious works of art. These materials function as a response to contemporary Iranian society—where name brands are highly valued and often imitated by local entrepreneurs—and are also familiar to most Western viewers.

A detail of an artwork depicting a girl with blond hair, wearing a blue dress and red shoes with a blue bow in her hair and a boy with short, brown hair with a yellow jacket on and blue pants holding a microphone. The boy appears to be singing in the microphone. The artwork is comprised of glaze, hand embroidered beads, paint, and plastic pearls.

Farhad Moshiri, Once Upon a Time (detail), 2011
Acrylic, glaze, hand embroidered beads, and plastic pearls on canvas, mounted on board, The Khazaei Foundation, photo by Christopher Pike

Originally commissioned as a window display, Once Upon a Time resembles a lush white layer cake with frosted borders and decorative toppings. Using piping tools, Moshiri applied thick acrylic paint to the canvas, the same way a pastry chef decorates a dessert. Closer inspection also reveals the elaborate beadwork used to construct a grid of images sourced from vintage postcards: sweethearts in love, domesticated animals, and exotic flower arrangements.

Tradition and Technique

Moshiri mines his own culture for inspiration and subject matter. He incorporates motifs, images, and stories drawn from Iranian culture, nodding to forms such as Persian rugs, ancient pottery, and classical poetry. The artist often adopts traditional artistic practices, at times even outsourcing the production of his work; for example, he has enlisted skilled female workers previously employed in Tehran’s wedding garment to assist in creating labor-intensive embroidered works.

A large stack of Persian carpets with a cartoon-like figure cut out of the middle of it.

Farhad Moshiri, Crash, 2011
43 stacked machine made carpets and video installation, The Farjam Foundation

Slices of American and Iranian culture collide in Farhad Moshiri’s sculpture Crash. For thousands of years, carpet weaving has been known as a traditional craft and art form in Iran, yet in this artwork the rugs are mass-produced and inexpensive, stacked in a thick pile, and punctured by a cartoonish cat-shaped hole. Moshiri tends to display Crash alongside episodes of Tom & Jerry, a show well-known in both the United States and the Middle East. Here it appears that Tom, the cat, has crashed through the stacked rugs.

There is in Moshiri’s art a process of perpetual translation, of cross-pollination of the cultural apparatuses of Iran and America.

Shiva Balaghi, Farhad Moshiri: Go West, 2017