29 December 2013

Three shows of paintings on the Upper East Side this week: James Rosenquist at Feigen (34 East 69th Street, til Jan 10) centers around two large-scale paintings from 1973, but for those (like me) who didn't see the forty foot long version of his Holy Roman Empire Through Checkpoint Charlie at the 2006 Art Dealers Association show, a smaller version is there on lithograph, as well as a 2004 litho of The Xenophobic Movie Director or Our Foreign Policy (right), a selection of other paintings, and Rosenquist-related works by Ray Johnson.

A sampling of Peter Doig's early canvases are at Werner (4 E 77th St) til Jan 4th (below, Red Siena); these will apparently not be in his retrospective that runs Jan 25-May 4 in Montreal.

Iran Modern (til Jan 5): This was my first visit to the Asia Society and as Piri' Miri Muli' readers would no doubt expect, the listings in the 1991 Blue Guide put lofty notions in my head about seeing the 50 2ndC sculptures from Kushan period of North India etc. but the price of admission doesn't mean they have room for a permanent and temporary show at the same time, because the upper floors consist of conference rooms set up by the Rockefellers to foster better relations between the US and Asia, and the Iran show has been in the works for well over a year (insert conspiracy theory here). Their timeline is available online, in which the curators don't omit recollections like "In August (1953), as Iran continues to suffer economically due to its blockaded and boycotted oil industry, the CIA, British Intelligence, and a cadre of Iranian military leaders engineer a successful coup to overthrow Mosaddegh and replace him as Prime Minister with a Shah loyalist general" and "with aid from allied intelligence agencies based in the United States and Israel, the Shah founds SAVAK (in 1957), an internal security service soon to become notorious for its zeal and ruthlessness in hunting down political dissidents in all arenas of public life"; included is a photo of a large crowd of women protesting in support of the Ayatollah in 1978. The threat of SAVAK is portrayed in the two paintings of Nicky Nodjoumi here; a wider selection of his Neo Rauch-like tableau are reproduced on the Taymour Grahne site from their Nodjoumi show last fall.

The curator of the Tehran MoMA sponsored, upon its opening, a retrospective of Nodjoumi in 1980, but after some folks from the new Islamic government saw it he had to flee the country and leave the paintings behind. Even more tragically, Bahman Mohassess destroyed most of his artworks before he moved to Rome in 2006 and died there four years later. Seeing the collection of his paintings and sculptures here was a moving experience; his work is heavily influenced by European traditions and deeply psychological (right, Minotaur). Premiering this year in the festival circuit was Mitra Farahani's documentary about him, Fifi Howls from Happiness, referencing Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece while suggesting a commission like Rivette's La Belle Noiseuse and, like Rivette's film, it doesn't appear to have a dvd distributor.

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