Massoud Arabshahi Iranian

Not on view

In this period, Arabshahi was interested in combining elements of Iran’s ancient, pre-Islamic arts with the technological advances being pushed through under the banner of nation-building. Rather than focus on a specific era or civilization, the artist drew loosely from Babylonian, Achaemenid and Assyrian sources. His works are often divided into rows in the style of ancient frieze reliefs. Cuneiform markings are evoked by the pseudo-script that is just visible behind the figures. Ancient motifs such as the rosette—a circle with spokes—or the disk symbolizing the solar deity Shamash appear frequently in Arabshahi’s paintings. Moreover, the artist’s use of prints, multiple paint layers, loose brushstrokes, and the selective application of metallic paints combine to lend the work the surface texture and air of an artifact. At the same time, many of the archaizing elements of the work double as references to a futuristic, technologically driven future. The metallic paints evoke metal surfaces. The stiff, featureless figures in the paintings look more like robots than people, and the composition’s stacked layers seem to embed them in factory assembly lines or large, cog-driven machines.

Untitled, Massoud Arabshahi (Iranian, born Tehran 1935–2019 Tehran), Silver and copper metallic paints and oil paint on paper, Iran

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