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Posted on: April 9, 2019

Iranian Artist Spotlight – Siah Armajani

Siah Armajani: Architect and Conceptual Artist

Axonometric drawing by Iranian artist Siah Armajani that reflects Iranian architectural landmarks and elements.

Like many of his peers who came of age in 1950’s Iran, Siah Armajani’s body of work is a direct response to the influence of politics and exile on his understanding of space and place. From his early works created as a student activist in Tehran to his later works constructed as a professor in America, the implication of politics is always central to the theme.

Armajani's work consisting of handwritten Farsi on his father's suit jacket lining.

Shirt #1, circa 1958

Armajani was born in 1939 in Tehran, and had already decided that he wanted to be an artist by the age of seven. Following in the artistic traditions of Persian calligraphy, his father signed him up to take lessons from a master. He lasted 6 months in his apprenticeship, but the skills that he gained can be seen throughout his body of work. Many of his early pieces, such as Shirt #1, also reference another cataclysmic event that took place in his youth – the Iranian political movement created by prime minister Mossadegh who was ousted from power shortly after nationalizing the country’s oil in 1952. This jacket fabricated from cloth, pencil, ink, and wood displays spiritual texts, folklore, and verses of Hafez that Armajani inscribed onto the lining of his father’s suit. Armajani also includes concealed notes that express his sense of urgency for political change.

Three of Armajani's maquettes of a house on fire.

Fallujah, circa 2004

Another seminal and controversial fabrication is Armajani’s 2004 work entitled Fallujah. In every iteration, a glass house is on fire and in disrepair. Armajani is making a controversial political statement about the Iraq War in this study. Taking inspiration from the message behind Picasso’s antiwar painting Guernica, Armajani includes some of his original elements such as the rocking horse and light bulb.

Armajani's bridge sits on the ground of Brooklyn Bridge Park with the skyline and Brooklyn Bridge in the background. The bridges has a single peak in the center that creates a space that houses a tree.

Bridge Over Tree, circa 1970

Armajani’s installation Bridge Over Tree was first exhibited in a Minneapolis park in 1970, and for the first time since, it has been recreated in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Armajani fabricates a seemingly traditional American bridge, except for a sharp peak in the center of the processional hall. An evergreen is planted in the hollow space shaped by the peak. This unusual form invites one to interact with Armajani’s original perspective on what the experience of a bridge can be. Once again, he subverts what is deemed normal in an elegant way.

Visit The Met Breuer now to see Siah Armajani’s comprehensive exhibition entitled Follow This LineBridge Over Tree is open to the public now through September at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Empire Fulton Ferry lawn.