Using painting, photography, sculpture, video, character design, animation, AR, XR and especially the places in between, artist Pouya Afshar employs a hybrid toolbox to create multi-layered narratives of migration and journey. Both surrealistic and grounded in lived experience — Afshar moved from Iran with his family at 16 — the diasporic universes constructed in his work are explicitly based in difficult and even violent reality and yet enthusiastically embrace the allegorical potential of fantasy and poetry. Afshar’s ambitious multimedia exhibition The Charm of the Unfamiliar is on view now at Craft Contemporary.

Pouya Afshar: Displaced I, 2018. Soft pastel on paper, 33 x 65.5 in (Collection of Mehrdad Ariani. Courtesy of the artist and ADVOCARTSY)

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?


POUYA AFSHAR: I still don’t think of myself as an “artist.” For me, art is a tool to use to be a better person. To be more productive in society. Can my title be “a wanna-be a good citizen,” instead of artist?


What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?

Easing life.


What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

Soccer player. Soccer Player. Soccer player.

Pouya Afshar: Isolated and Displaced III, 2020. Digital painting on acetate and charcoal on paper, 18 x 25 in (Courtesy of the artist and ADVOCARTSY)

Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?

Yes. Went to CalArts and then UCLA. CalArts was a particularly great experience. Coming to the U.S from a rigid, outdated, non-relevant educational system in Iran, the experience at CalArts was mind boggling. Got to know many fantastic people there.


When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?

The Charm of the Unfamiliar at Craft Contemporary, open now through January 9.


What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?

William Kentridge.

Pouya Afshar: Ellis V, 2020. Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in (Courtesy of the artist and ADVOCARTSY.)

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and Folk Kurdish Tanbour.


Website and social media handles, please!

IG: @pouya_afshar_

Pouya Afshar: The Charm of the Unfamiliar, installation view, 2021 (Courtesy of Craft Contemporary. Photo: Josh Schaedel)

Pouya Afshar: The Charm of the Unfamiliar, installation view, 2021 (Courtesy of Craft Contemporary. Photo: Josh Schaedel)

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