Ardeshir Mohassess Iranian

Not on view

Iranian-American artist Ardeshir Mohassess was a celebrated satirist of contemporary life and politics in Iran. Introduced to the Iranian intelligentsia at a young age by his mother, a poet and educator with a prominent literary salon in Isfahan and Tehran, Mohassess began publishing drawings in Towfiq, Iran’s leading satirical and literary journal in 1951, at the age of thirteen. His work reflected an ongoing fascination with media culture, photographs, newspaper clippings, Hollywood films, as well as Qajar-era lithographs and coffeehouse paintings. Mohassess also collaborated with many of Iran’s leading twentieth-century writers and intellectuals such as Ahmad Shamlu (1925–1999) and Sadeq Hedayat, and was well-known with Iranian artistic circles of the 1960s and 70s. His thinly veiled depictions of violence and political turmoil in contemporary Iran recall canonical works such as Goya’s The Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra) (1810–20) and Honoré Daumier’s lithographs.

This series of drawings were inspired by Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s Gharbzadegi [Westruckness] or Occidentosis: A Plague from the West, an influential text published in 1962 that denounced what the author saw as an unhealthy infatuation with twentieth-century Western thought and customs. Instead, Ahmad argued, Iran must gain control of its own means of production in order to reassert control over its national and cultural identity. At the same time, he warned against allowing machines to dictate the terms of national progress and further weaken its sources cultural authenticity. Instead, he believed that the only element to have escaped westruckness in Iran was the country’s popular religious traditions.

This series of 12 drawings was used to illustrate a 1982 publication of Gharbzadegi (Westruckness) in English translation.

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