WELLESLEY, MASSACHUSSETTS – Parviz Tanavoli, the “father of modern Iranian sculpture,” comes to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College on 10 February 2015. Well overdue, this landmark exhibition will be a retrospective featuring the artist’s diverse range across sculpture, painting, printmaking, ceramics and jewellery. Having spanned East and West, Tanavoli is as well known for his own collection, scholarly works and poetry, as he is for teaching and mentoring of young aspiring artists in Iran today. Having innovated ambitiously and broken barriers in design, he has also broken market records at auction. Best known for his Heech sculptures, the beautifully flowing shape of which celebrates the harnessing of calligraphic power in Persian script, Parviz is today’s embodiment of the mythical Persian sculptor Farhad.
The iconic Heech,Parviz has told me, is “an old friend.” Over the years it has come back to him in many incarnations – morphing and seducing, playing, sitting or languishing like an Odalisque. It has been born and re-born in bronze or fiberglass, in vivid fuschia or restrained metallic grey. But whatever its incarnation, it has a body, shape and a spirit behind it. It speaks loftily or with quiet charm, but it always speaks and is not “nothing” as the Persian word suggests.
The world also knows Tanavoli for his Poets, Prophets, Lovers, Walls and other series. However what few people realize is the voice he has given to the ancient, folkloric images and motifs of Iran, his exploration of our visual anthropology. A man with a deep understanding of his history and heritage, every creation unearths some facet of our cultural or tribal legacy, some primal expression of form and colour rivalling Picasso’s use of African masks. Tanavoli’s body of work is in itself a visual library of Persian design, fusing a complex system of symbols into a distinctive lexicon somewhere on the borders of metaphorical statement and the traditions of realism and abstraction.
The brainchild of Maryam Eisler who is behind a Wellesley programme on Art & Visual Culture of the Near, Middle and Far East, and co-curated by Dr Shiva Balaghi of Brown University and Lisa Fischman, Director of the Davis Museum, this exhibition promises a sweeping view of the artist’s œuvre, with loans from some of the world’s well-known private collections and museums. Book your tickets to Boston now – Wellesley is just a 12-mile drive away!