ARGHAVAN KHOSRAVI | FATH-ALI SHAH QAJAR MORGAN LEHMAN

 

Arghavan Khosravi is the youngest artist featured in issue #2, but her grasp of art history, and her will to activate it within her practice, is no less thoughtful than the others. An MFA Painting student at RISD, I found this work, Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, in her class’s current exhibition at Morgan Lehman. The show was strong, but this particular work, I dare say, was the strongest.

Fath-Ali Shah Qajar is part of a larger series that the artist has undertaken to appropriate and subvert the most ubiquitous portrait in the United States: that of George Washington on the one dollar bill. Moreover, Khosravi couples this desire with her careful study of the Ottoman, Persian, and Mughal traditions of miniatures, and more generally, Persian portraiture.

We find here a crisp one dollar bill that Khosravi has surgically dissected. A seal mid-right is overpainted in a decorative motif. One of the “1”s has been replaced with beautiful calligraphic script (Persian calligraphy, in fact, that spells out the Shah’s name). And in lieu of America’s first president we find Fath-Ali Shah Qajar himself, the second Shah of Iran who ruled from 1797 to 1834. Though forty years separated the men, their ascents to power occurred only a few years apart.

For this work, Khosravi has very carefully appropriated a famous portrait of the Shah painted by Mihr ‘Ali, court painter to the Shah and progenitor of Qajar-period art. Khosravi puts on display her formidable painting skills as she clearly articulates each encrusted jewel, each snatch of embroidery. The near-microscopic level of detail is impressive, and it not only lends the work a sensibility similar to Mihr ‘Ali’s, but at least to me recalls the miniature tradition that was equally popular throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Its brightness and richness certainly contrasts with the dollar, whose engraving appears washed out and cool beside the Shah’s shimmering warmth. Khosravi has also carefully painted the Shah both upon and around the dollar bill, which gives the work a very smart, almost tromp-l’oeil sense of depth.

And I’d say this adds to the painting’s subversive character. It almost appears as if the Shah has peeped his head through the dollar bill’s hole, perhaps not unlike those carnival attractions where one fills a void in a painting to comic effect. But here, the effect is not so much comic as a revolutionary—a leader in the East who initiated a dynasty usurps a leader in the West who, in some ways, initiated his own.

Khosravi’s skills are apparent elsewhere, as in her painting Simurgh. Here the mythical Iranian bird gives way to a dreamy apparition filled with bodies and beasts in various, detached activities. Again, Khosravi displays her interest in the granular. Upon close inspection one can see just how intricate every form manifests. In the image provided you can see the artist’s careful, geometric patterning, which even appears beneath the simurgh’s haunch, if you look closely. For a moment this intense attention to detail and studied draftsmanship reminded me of Karl Haendel, but those are two very different practices, if not worldviews. For Khosravi, I’d say, the detail is not a gateway to the monumental—it dwells in peace, in a confident self-possession.

Four on the Floor #2

Jaimie Warren | Megan Marrin | Ray Johnson | Arghavan Khosravi

Arghavan Khosravi, Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Mihr Ali, Fath-Ali Shah (Standing), c. 1813.

Arghavan Khosravi, Simurgh, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Arghavan Khosravi, Simurgh (detail), 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Arghavan Khosravi, Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

ARGHAVAN KHOSRAVI | FATH-ALI SHAH QAJAR MORGAN LEHMAN

 

Arghavan Khosravi is the youngest artist featured in issue #2, but her grasp of art history, and her will to activate it within her practice, is no less thoughtful than the others. An MFA Painting student at RISD, I found this work, Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, in her class’s current exhibition at Morgan Lehman. The show was strong, but this particular work, I dare say, was the strongest.

Fath-Ali Shah Qajar is part of a larger series that the artist has undertaken to appropriate and subvert the most ubiquitous portrait in the United States: that of George Washington on the one dollar bill. Moreover, Khosravi couples this desire with her careful study of the Ottoman, Persian, and Mughal traditions of miniatures, and more generally, Persian portraiture.

We find here a crisp one dollar bill that Khosravi has surgically dissected. A seal mid-right is overpainted in a decorative motif. One of the “1”s has been replaced with beautiful calligraphic script (Persian calligraphy, in fact, that spells out the Shah’s name). And in lieu of America’s first president we find Fath-Ali Shah Qajar himself, the second Shah of Iran who ruled from 1797 to 1834. Though forty years separated the men, their ascents to power occurred only a few years apart.

Mihr Ali, Fath-Ali Shah (Standing), c. 1813.

For this work, Khosravi has very carefully appropriated a famous portrait of the Shah painted by Mihr ‘Ali, court painter to the Shah and progenitor of Qajar-period art. Khosravi puts on display her formidable painting skills as she clearly articulates each encrusted jewel, each snatch of embroidery. The near-microscopic level of detail is impressive, and it both lends the work a sensibility similar to Mihr ‘Ali’s, but at least to me recalls the miniature tradition that was equally popular throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Its brightness and richness certainly contrasts with the dollar, whose engraving appears washed out and cool beside the Shah’s shimmering warmth. Khosravi has also carefully painted the Shah both upon and around the dollar bill, which gives the work a very smart, almost tromp-l’oeil sense of depth.

And I’d say this adds to the painting’s subversive character. It almost appears as if the Shah has peeped his head through the dollar bill’s hole, perhaps not unlike those carnival attractions where one fills a void in a painting to comic effect. But here, the effect is not so much comic as a revolutionary—a leader in the East who initiated a dynasty usurps a leader in the West who, in some ways, initiated his own.

Khosravi’s skills are apparent elsewhere, as in her painting Simurgh. Here the mythical Iranian bird gives way to a dreamy apparition filled with bodies and beasts in various, detached activities. Again, Khosravi displays her interest in the granular. Upon close inspection one can see just how intricate every form manifests. In the image provided you can see the artist’s careful, geometric patterning, which even appears beneath the simurgh’s haunch, if you look closely. For a moment this intense attention to detail and studied draftsmanship reminded me of Karl Haendel, but those are two very different practices, if not worldviews. For Khosravi, I’d say, the detail is not a gateway to the monumental—it dwells in peace, in a confident self-possession.

 

Arghavan Khosravi, Simurgh, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Khosravi’s skills are apparent elsewhere, as in her painting Simurgh. Here a mythical Iranian bird gives way to a dreamy apparition filled with bodies and beasts in various, detached activities. Again, Khosravi displays her interest in the granular. Upon close inspection one can see just how intricate every form manifests. In the image provided you can see the artist’s careful, geometric patterning, which even appears beneath the simurgh’s haunch, if you look closely. For a moment this intense attention to detail and studied draftsmanship reminded me of Karl Haendel, but those are two very different practices, if not worldviews. For Khosravi, I’d say, the detail is not a gateway to the monumental—it dwells in peace, in a confident self-possession.

Arghavan Khosravi, Simurgh (detail), 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Four on the Floor #2

Jaimie Warren | Megan Marrin | Ray Johnson | Arghavan Khosravi

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