Location:Bernstein Gallery, Robertson Hall
Audience:Open to the Public
The Bernstein Gallery is pleased to present the work of Iranian-born artist Samira Abbassy. “Narratives: Hearts, Minds & Mythologies” combines two distinct bodies of work, conceptually linked by the artist’s examination of mythologies, both personal and collective.
In Abbassy’s “Eternal War Series," two series of which are on view, the artist begins her inquiry into holy wars, specifically with the cult of martyrdom in Shia Islam. “Shahnameh” manuscripts, or "The Book of Kings" (15th century), are illustrated epic poems documenting the invasions of the Persian Empire. These manuscripts, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum, inspired the artist to visually retell the story of our own contemporary wars in the Middle East. Using brown oil paint on gesso panels, these delicately painted small works convey a sense of timelessness and the repetitive cycles of warfare throughout time. As the artist writes, “Older empires are obliterated and overlaid by new Empires which import their own culture, histories and mythologies.” Who is behind the narrative? The victor or the vanquished? Or both?
The other works on view include richly colored oil and collaged paintings of female figures set in threatening backdrops that evoke private, yet universal, psychic struggles. The artist has written about the difficulties she has encountered trying to understand the culture of her parents and how she fits in to a broader narrative, having lived many years as an immigrant in Britain. Calling herself a “fictional historian,” she has tried to “knit together disparate languages, conventions and myths" through her art.
Abbassy was born in Ahwaz, Iran, and moved to England as a child. After graduating from Canterbury College of Art, she began showing her work in London. In 1988 she moved to New York to help establish and found the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program, where she currently has a studio and is a lifetime board member.
Her New York solo show in 2007 was reviewed by Benjamin Genocchio in The New York Times and by Ariella Budek in Newsday. In September 2012, Nisa Qasi interviewed Abbassy for the Financial Times lifestyle section. “Charting the history of warfare from the era of the sword to the present, Abbassy’s sensitively painted modular panels allow for the presentation of numerous narratives on war and violence through the ages,” wrote Maryam Ekhtiar, curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Abbassy's work is shown internationally and has been acquired for private and public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where her work is currently on view through May 31; the British Government Art Collection; the British Museum; the Burger Collection; the Donald Rubin collection (Rubin Museum, New York); the Farjaam Collection, Dubai; the Devi Foundation, India; and the Omid Foundation, Iran. Her awards include a Yaddo residency fellowship in 2006; a New York Foundation for the Arts award in 2007; and a Joan Mitchell Painting/Sculpture award in 2010. In April 2012, she was the artist in residence at the University of Virginia and has recently been nominated for the Jameel Prize. Her next solo show is scheduled this summer at Rossi & Rossi Gallery in London.