The expectations and Dilemmas of These Generations of Iranian Sculptors

Helia Darabi

The expectations and Dilemmas of These Generations of Iranian Sculptors

Sculpture seems to have a more challenging situation and background comparing other artistic fields in Iran. The endeavors of the first generation of sculptors in modern sense, Abul-Hassan Sedighi (1894-1995), were only an introduction to Western canons of academic sculpture, which never gained a storage educational basis anyway. On the other hand, Iranian so called Modernism-the achievements of Parvis Tanavoli and Jazeh Tabatabai aside- was generally exemplified in painting. There were hardly any connections between the novel modernists and their academic, naturalist predecessors, and the outbreak of the Islamic revolution finally put an end to the whole innovative, enthusiastic enterprises of modernist artists.

The revival of sculpture after the revolution took more time and effort than other disciplines. The difficulty of retrieving legitimation to sculpture and the unsought exile of its practitioners added to the obstacles already threatening this fragile tree. However, the reopening of the discipline in art universities was a new blood, which also led to the rejoining the different generations of sculptors. The biennals and other official competitions started to work and the galleries and collectors gradually showed more interest in sculpture. This way, in two past decades, sculpture slowly found its stand, flourishing through the efforts of a young generation which little by little, in connection with older generations, formed an artistic society of sculptors. 

Now it is fifteen years from the first poet-revolutionary official sculpture exhibition. In these years the efforts of individual artists has not only regained the legitimacy of sculpture, but also has liberated it from its conventional, mostly commission-based practice, making a more creative foundation corresponding to the overall movement of Iranian contemporary art.

The adoption of new, alternative materials, liberating sculpture from its traditional definition and expanding it through the space, the reflection of socio-political concerns or autobiographical narratives, and embracing and combining new media placed sculpture in the deconstructive, alternative current of contemporary art. The tendency of artists from different disciplines to embark on installations and other three dimensional modes of artistic presentation made a fruitful circumstances of plurality and competition, leading to a broader definition of “multimedia artist” which also included many of sculptors.

The present exhibition is an attempt to gather three generations of Iranian sculptors and depict an overall image of present- day professional sculpture making; an image comprising Parviz Tanavoli as a modernist precursor and a progressive teacher, and its immediate follower who were influential in their own ways before and after the revolution. The second generation, starting their career after the revolution, though mostly characterized by formal and technical concerns, were however important in confirming and validation the sculpture practice and tutoring despite the lack of tangible examples, scarcity of resources, and the brevity of practical experiences has managed to open new paths and prompt creative currents, which with all their experimental nature, are nonetheless notable for their variety of materials, media and approaches, the deconstructive nature and the large quantity of their practitioners. These works rely more on reflection of the immediate environment, the lived experience and social statements than beauty and technical accomplishment. They combine pop vitality and playfulness with contemporary poignant irony.

The ideals and expectations of Iranian contemporary sculpture is beyond the existing embodiments. The contribution of this newly formed society, which aims to integrity and plurality at the same time, is a promising picture, parts of which is observable in current exhibition.

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