Leaving the Land of Roses
January 19 through March 9, 2013
Opening Reception, Saturday, January 19, 2013 | 6-9:00 p.m.
A R T I S T S
David Abir | Krista Nassi
Tal Shochat | Marjan Vayghan
Leaving the Land of Roses explores the sociopolitical strife in forced exile, while remaining deeply connected to the scents, sights and sounds of a remembered landscape. Our western notion of paradise and the garden find their origins within the innovations of ancient Iran; the word paradise itself stems from a translation of Old Persian pairidaeza for the walled in area of an enclosed garden. Travelers, merchants, armies and missionaries would share tales of these beautiful grounds, which ultimately became associated with the idea of the Judeo-Christian Garden of Eden – sparking centuries of awe-inspiring horticulture and utopian myth.
Persia is said to be the native country of the rose. Botanists in fact trace the rose to central Asia. From there, the cultivation of these flowers spread across the globe, simultaneously moving east and west. This single flower has internationally and inter-culturally embedded itself as a pervasive symbol. To those who have left this land behind, the scent is nostalgic. The extraction of rose oil originated in Persia; rosewater continues to play an essential role in cultural, culinary and spiritual traditions.
Using artist as guide, Leaving the Land of Roses poses questions of hybrid and multi-layered identities. How does scent or sound so vividly recall a forgotten or hidden memory? How do a people reconcile yearning for their homeland and its culture — even though they cannot and have no desire to return? How does a land that once inspired the vision of paradise become a place of oppression and violence? The work of Iranian Jewish artists David Abir, Krista Nassi, Tal Shochat and Marjan K. Vayghan all attempt to answer these complex questions. They embrace a nostalgic ideal of a birthplace where colors radiated with greater intensity, fruits tasted richer and the scent of roses permeated the air.
Imagining Iran as the birthplace of harmonious gardens, rose-scented streets and transcendent pools, those fleeing in 1979 or after have experienced paradise lost. Now, more than thirty years after the revolution, they face the challenges that affect all immigrant populations — assimilation, acculturation, and intermarriage. Together, viewers will vicariously traverse centuries of turmoil, discovering the characteristics that make the Iranian Jewish story both unique and universal. Ultimately, the artwork is in service of the most basic question of all: what does paradise mean to you?
Leaving the Land of Roses, is organized by the Shulamit Gallery. It is curated by Shula Nazarian, Owner and Director, and Anne Hromadka, Co-Director and coordinated by Sharón Zoldan, Associate Director. The exhibition is an official satellite exhibition of the Fowler’s Light and Shadow: The Story of Iranian Jews.
Krista Nassi was born in Iran and immigrated to Los Angeles after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In her homeland, she had experienced political hardship; now, in an effort to dissect her understanding and disseminate her perspective, Nassi creates elaborate photomontages, manipulating their surface with ink and pigments. Within her works, Persian iconography is abundant. As she continues in pursuit of uninhibited creative ventures, Nassi has been collected by Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art (TMOCA) as well as a select number of galleries throughout Europe.
The emerging Marjan K. Vayghan, born at the crossroads of Judaism and Islam, often explores this duel identity as a visual and performance artist. “Fly with the Cage” Legacy Crate, 2009, a kinetic audio and light installation, features an altered shipping crate. Illuminated panels highlight images of Iranian mosaics. In her performance, the crate becomes a symbol of her displaced heritage and immigrant narrative. The viewer is invited to enter the open crate and see the world through a kaleidoscopic view of her home, partake in familial and political dialogue, and join Vayghan as she explores her own history.
Tal Shochat, an Iranian-Israeli photographer, was born in 1974 in Netanya, Israel and currently lives and works in Tel Aviv. In a vivid review by the New Yorker, Shochat’s work is described as having a certain “stylized, storybook quality. Lit like monuments, solitary subjects are isolated from the landscape, emphasizing their power as symbols of abundance, endurance, and fertility. It’s a version of Eden – extravagantly bountiful but oddly unnatural.” Her images often create epic narratives, and this exhibition will include new works exploring the roles of Iranian women as matriarchal figures. A line of poetry by famous Iranian poets inspires each carefully crafted scene. Her works have recently been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England and can be found in the stable of the Jewish Museum in New York City.
David Abir, born in 1969, is an Iranian-American sculptor. His current project revolves around a set of fictional monuments viewed through a historical and archeological context. The sculptures and installations are presented as ‘ruins’ in a state of excavation. The essence of his work is a coded language of music that emanates from within, further shaped by the acoustic distortion and phenomena of the resonant inner spaces. Several ruins will be on display in the Shulamit Gallery Project Space as part of this exhibition. As of the spring of 2013, the first edition of Tekrar Level Four will be permanently installed in Istanbul as a part of the collection of Ahmet Kocabıyık’a at the Borusan Contemporary Museum.
My Heart Is in the East, and I Am at the Ends of the West
October 15, 2012 through January 5, 2013
Opening Reception, Saturday, November 3, 2012 | 6-9:00 p.m.
A R T I S T S
Farid Kia | Ben Mayeri | Laura Merage
Soraya Sarah Nazarian | Jessica Shokrian
Inspired by the first line of Judah Halevi’s famous poem, our exhibition title calls to mind the deep yearning of those living in exile. Halevi was a Spanish Jewish poet, born in 1085, whose poetry beautifully captures the loss and longing of a Jew living far from his ancient homeland.
My Heart Is in the East, and I Am at the Ends of the West is the first of two inaugural exhibitions at Shulamit Gallery, which explore the contemporary Iranian Jewish story. Both exhibitions are held in collaboration with the Fowler Museum at UCLA, whose exhibit entitled Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews is now being shown. The Fowler’s readapted exhibition, first organized by Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv, Israel, will focus specifically on LA’s Iranian community.
Using artist as guide, My Heart Is in the East is a chance to explore questions of hybrid and multi-layered identities: What does it mean to be in exile? What is our relationship to the city or country in which we live? Is it possible to maintain a positive national identity while fleeing persecution? Is the place in which one seeks refuge ever truly home? The work of Iranian Jewish artists, Farid Kia, Laura Merage, Soraya Sarah Nazarian and Jessica Shokrian all attempt to answer these complex questions.
The Jewish community of Iran, whose members’ lives and experiences are explored in this exhibition, is one of the oldest Jewish communities. During the early and mid-twentieth century, the Iranian Jewish community gained religious freedom, increased economic security, and experienced vast improvements to its quality of life. However, its acceptance proved to be fleeting and quickly evaporated during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Quite literally overnight, the majority of Iranian Jews fled their homeland for new lives in Israel, Europe, and the United States. From Great Neck, NY to Los Angeles, CA new communities emerged which had to wrestle with its past and define a new future.
As in the romantic and relevant words of Halevi, the hearts of Iranian Jews continue to turn eastward. They embrace a nostalgic ideal of a birthplace where colors radiated with greater intensity, where flowers smelled sweeter, where spices were more alluring, where melodies could move women to tears, and where family was everything. Yet, here in Los Angeles — the literal ends of the West — Iranian Jews have created new lives for themselves and their children in the largest Iranian expatriate community. Now, more than thirty years after the Revolution, they face the challenges that affect all immigrant populations — assimilation, acculturation, and intermarriage.
This exhibition also includes several historic pieces, which were displayed in Iranian homes and given as gifts to foreign dignitaries before the Revolution. They are on loan from the collection of Iranian silversmith Ben Mayeri (1914-2003). The mixing of contemporary art and historic objects serves to remind the viewer of nostalgic notions of home, and mirrors the display of cultural artifacts on exhibit at the Fowler Museum.
Together, viewers will traverse centuries of turmoil, discovering the characteristics that make the Iranian Jewish story both unique and universal. The artwork gathered here takes the audience on a voyage of self-discovery, ultimately in service of the most basic question of all: what does home mean to you?
My Heart Is in the East, and I Am at the Ends of the West, is organized by the Shulamit Gallery. It is curated by Shula Nazarian, Owner and Director, and Anne Hromadka, Co-Director and coordinated by Sharón Zoldan, Associate Director. The show is an official satellite exhibition of the Fowler’s Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews.
Soraya Sarah Nazarian
Strength Revealed: A 25 Year Retrospective
Strength Revealed was organized by Shulamit Gallery. The exhibit held at Gallery 817 presented a 25 year retrospective of sculptor Soraya Sarah Nazarian’s work from March 3 – May 1, 2011. Curated by Barbara Gilbert, curator emerita of the Skirball Cultural Center, the exhibition presented the full range of Nazarian’s accomplished work and placed her among the few contemporary artists who have accepted the challenge of direct carving in stone.
Guided by an intuitive connection to natural stone, Nazarian has created an exceptional array of works on universal and personal themes that reflect her own life experiences. Her career is distinguished by two major periods: a time of discovery and experimentation during the 1980s and 1990s, and a period of artistic self-confidence marked by the creation of large-scale works beginning in 2000. Her artistic progression began with mastering the human form and then moved to exploring the possibilities of abstraction and non-objectivity.
Proceeds from the exhibition benefited the Soraya Sarah Nazarian Artists Initiative, a program designed to assist artists with obtaining studio and exhibition space in the Los Angeles area.