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The Ultimate Shirin Neshat Exhibition is Coming to The Broad

  • Shirin Neshat - Untitled
  • Shirin Neshat - Unframed
October 13, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

Between 1993 and 1997, the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat produced a photographic series called Women of Allah which gained immense popularity. Dealing with what was, and still is, a huge taboo – women’s involvement in the Iran-Iraq War and the Islamic Revolution – the black and white photographs feature women traditionally covered with a veil which, according to Neshat’s interpretation, signifies both freedom and repression.

The series turned Neshat into an internationally-acclaimed artist. Ever since, she has been working intensely on the exploration of the position of women and their role in a society framed by masculinity. By contrasting the Islamic and Western perspectives, she created powerful multilayered and, in some cases, quite universal narratives expressed through photography and motion pictures (video and film). Her entire feminism-based practice is aimed at dissecting social and political realities in the name of equality, solidarity and cultural diversity.

To better understand her explorations of the themes of exile, belonging, ideology, public life and private life, and women’s experience it is important to mention that in 1975 the artist left Iran to attend the University of California at Berkeley. During her absence, the society massively transformed – first with the overthrow of Shan Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, then with the Islamic Revolution (1978–79) and finally with Iran-Iraq war (1980–88). In 1990 Neshat returned to Iran and was perplexed with the changes which inspired her to get back to art, and so back in the States she made the first series, and then the other more elaborate works throughout the years as well.

In order to emphasize her three-decades-long practice and present it in a thoroughly examined manner, The Broad decided to release a comprehensive retrospective of her work titled Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again. This will be the first major exhibition in the western United States and it will include all major works, some of them part of the Broad collection (beginning with the 1999 acquisition of Rapture (1999)).

Shirin Neshat - Offered Eyes
Shirin Neshat – Offered Eyes, 1993. © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

The Grand Shirin Neshat Retrospective

The title of the upcoming grand exhibition at The Broad Museum in Los Angeles refers to a poem written by the prolific Iranian filmmaker and poet Forugh Farrokhzad (1934–67). More than two hundred and thirty photographs and eight video installations by Shirin Neshat, including iconic video works such as Rapture, Turbulent (1998) and Passage (2001) will be chronologically arranged, starting with the mentioned Women of Allah (1993–97) and the artist’s most recent project titled Land of Dreams, consisting of two videos and a body of photographs.

The full scope of Neshat’s practice will be examined with the works focused on specific events in contemporary Iran before and after the Islamic Revolution, as well as with the ones focused on ancient Persian history and literature. Neshat expressed her excitement by saying:

With the most thoughtful and imaginative approach, exhibition curator Ed Schad and The Broad have assembled a diverse group of work from my earliest to the latest offerings to reflect on the parallels as well as the evolution of my ideas from 1993 to the present. It has been rewarding to work closely with them on this show that can ultimately read as one cohesive narrative, presenting both my exploration of still photography as well as video installation. I Will Greet the Sun Again will offer a rare glimpse into my artistic journey and process as I navigate various cultures such as Iranian, Moroccan, Mexican, Egyptian and Azerbaijan, exploring topics that seem to be mainly concerned with my own unresolved issues in the world, such as the questions of identity, homeland, political oppression, and religious fervor, as well as an individual sense of displacement and alienation.

Shirin Neshat - Untitled Women of Allah
Shirin Neshat – Untitled (Women of Allah), 1996. © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

I Will Greet the Sun Again

The Broad Museum’s survey in Los Angeles will feature all three sub-series of the iconic Women of Alah, the first one being the Unveiling series that explores the personal struggles of women stranded by the religious constrains of the society and the forces and freedoms of their desires. The second was inspired by the poet Tahereh Saffarzadeh (1936–2008) and shows Iran’s shifting concept of martyrdom, while the final series was made during Neshat’s last trip to Iran in 1995 and it features women inside of Iran in various poses of prayer and power.

The visitors will also be able to experience Neshat’s collaboration with composer Philip Glass expressed through the project Passage. Three galleries will host the monumental photographic installations such as The Book of Kings (2012), Our House Is on Fire (2013), and The Home of My Eyes (2015), a series of portraits shot in Azerbaijan. On display will be films Illusions and Mirrors (2016, featuring Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman) and Roja (2016), along with the debut of the mentioned new piece Land of Dreams.

This particular project explores dreams as a window into the anxieties of the current political moment aimed to critically articulate both Iranian and American political systems while underlining the humanity and vulnerability of the people exposed to social, political and economic injustice. It consists of two films that feature Simin, an Iranian woman, who is trying to maintain a career as a photographer in the United States. She makes portraits, but also collects the dreams of her American subjects, which she takes back a mysterious colony. Land of Dreams also includes a group of portraits of Americans of different backgrounds, ages, and genders.

On display will also be Neshat’s series Along with Rapture and Possessed, the Soliloquy series (1999–2000), her first feature film made in 2009, Women Without Men, and the recently debuted feature film, Looking for Oum Kulthum.

Shirin Neshat - Ilgara
Shirin Neshat – Ilgara, from The Home of My Eyes series, 2015. © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Shirin Neshat at The Broad

The upcoming exhibition will offer a fresh insight into the practice of one of the most prolific contemporary artists in a tightened and concise retrospective format. Even the founding director of The Broad Joanne Heyler didn’t hide her excitement by stating the following:

Shirin Neshat has inspired us for decades, and we are excited to be organizing the largest exhibition to date of her work. “Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again” will share the powerful and beautiful work of an artist who gives voice to outsiders and exiles who have left their countries in the wake of political conflict. At a turbulent time of highly charged civic discourse around immigration and nationalism, this survey will offer an opportunity to consider new viewpoints and ideas, and for rich, open exchanges that examine our social, cultural and political conditions.

A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition with essays written by the curator, Farzaneh Milani (Farrokhzad’s biographer and an authority on Iranian literature and feminism), Godfrey Cheshire (a prominent writer on Iranian cinema and contributor to The New York Times, Film Comment and Criterion, and Layla S. Diba (curator and scholar of Qajar Iran and modern and contemporary art).

Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Againwill be on view at The Broad in Los Angeles from 19 October 2019 until 16 February 2020.

Featured images: Shirin Neshat – Untitled, from Roja series, 2016; Bonding, 1995. © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. All images courtesy The Broad Museum.