From her birthplace of Tehran, to the UK where she was raised, to Los Angeles where she has made her home, artist Yassi Mazandi has always been interested in dissolving borders and blending influences — and by extension, mediums. Mazandi works in porcelain, clay, bronze sculptures; paintings and drawings; lately in video; and more recently in digital mediums. Having spent much of lockdown entertaining and educating herself about the enchantments and challenges of cryptoart, in 2021 she dropped her first AR and NFT pieces, in which she bridged the gaps between the extreme corporeality of clay and the limitless energy of the disembodied metaverse.
This all sounds very au courant, but actually for Mazandi it began during her Rauschenberg Residency on Captiva Island in 2012, as some “technique-related experiments” evolved into a body of work which she named “sculptographs,” as they blend physical sculptures with advanced imaging practices like derivations from color-manipulated 3D scans of the hand-thrown flower sculptures.
Mazandi’s objects and images illuminate interfering patterns, broken mandalas, interventions into sacred geometry, and fractal sigils, all with botanical, cyborgian, and anatomical aspects, hinting at narrative and ceremonial functions. Now a new kinetic sculptural work by Mazandi, Language of the Birds, activates the exterior of LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion. The installation of schematic avian beings is based on an epic 12th-century Persian poem by Farid al-Din ‘Attar — a parable about a flock of birds undertaking a perilous mystical quest for God, also seen as a metaphor for a spiritual home, or even our own best selves — but claims clear resonances with contemporary issues from migration to climate change and the search for identity and community.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
YASSI MAZANDI: In my mid-teens I discovered how much I enjoyed the artistic process, how still my mind is while creating art.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Nature and my reaction to it, both conscious and subconscious.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I’d be brokenhearted and probably going insane.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I am self-taught. Sadly, art school (university, actually anything above high school) was forbidden by parental sexism. Happily, I love experimenting, making mistakes and learning.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I came to spend time with and get to know my aging father. I stayed because of all that I love about L.A.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
Language of the Birds is on show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) through June 2023. It is a kinetic sculpture of 100 bronze birds, named after the 12th century Persian poem about the search for home, truth and meaning. The installation also references climate change and recent, dramatic loss of bird populations. On September 18, I’ll be talking about this new installation alongside artist Mohammad Barrangi — who also has an outdoor installation, Mantiq al-Tayr currently at LACMA.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Website and social media handles, please!
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