Happy Ramadan to our friends who are observing this month! And for everyone else, you don’t have to practice or even know that much about this Muslim holiday to take advantage of the cultural occasion it presents. That is: a pair of smart, emotional, beauteous and historical fine-art exhibitions on view here in L.A., offering the perfect opportunity to remember up close that there’s more to the Iranian narrative than meets the average cable news cycle.
“In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art” is on view at LACMA, where it graces the BCAM building through September; and beginning at downtown gallery the SPACE by Advocartsy on Sunday, May 20, “The World Is My Home” will be on view through June.
While the weeks-long Ramadan observation starts today, Persian New Year is also a springtime event, and for years LACMA organized an annual Nowruz celebration of dance, music, food and flowers (since relocated to UCLA), as well as regular Persian/Iranian art surveys, both international and intergenerational. LACMA actually has a rather unique museum council dedicated to collecting contemporary Middle Eastern art. It’s one way for the museum to reflect the fullness of the vitally diverse population in the county it serves.
In that context, LACMA’s current survey exhibition “In the Fields of Empty Days...” brings together some 125 works by more than 50 artists, across all genres and mediums, from animation to illustrated books, painting, photography, video, sculpture, political satire and more. Though the show does contain historical works, most of the artists are living and working today, all around the world.
Though diverse in style and material, these artists have been selected to elucidate the motif of appropriating the past as an allegory of the present. From origin myths to folklore, religion, geopolitics and family histories, “In the Fields of Empty Days…” assembles powerful and poetic works that use the past to more fully understand, and comment upon, what is happening in the present.
Meanwhile, across town in the DTLA Fashion District, “The World Is My Home” assembles the work of four contemporary Iranian artists, all of whom were born in Iran and are now living and working around the world, from New York to Europe.
Afsoon, Roya Farassat, Shahram Karimi and Dana Nehdaran, despite very disparate practices and aesthetics, all share the same kind of intimacy with the past as LACMA’s artists display, albeit with a more tightly focused interest in how those dynamics continue to affect individual identities.
While the gallery show is definitely in dialogue with the LACMA show, Advocartsy’s entire exhibition program, its raison d’etre in fact, is dedicated to the principle of providing a platform for contemporary Iranian art in L.A. Its exhibitions (both those it produced around the city in previous years and those in this new permanent home) are always thought-provokingly engaged with this salient and timely set of cultural issues and creative perspectives.
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LACMA (BCAM), 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; lacma.org ; Mon.-Tue. & Thu., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat.- Sun., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; runs through Sept. 9; $20, free after 3 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
The SPACE by Advocartsy, 924 S. San Pedro St., downtown; (213) 372-5096, advocartsy.com. Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., May 20-June 10. Opening reception Sunday, May 20, 4-7 p.m.; free.