I first met Azarakhsh Farahani when he came to Chicago to promote Malaria at the 2016 Chicago International Film Festival. He contacted me on the online hospitality website Couchsurfing saying he needed a place to stay for about 15 days. That was a lot longer than I normally host–but, hey, why not! I learned as well as being a musician and actor, Azarakhsh is an accomplished illustrator, who has created posters for festivals and film events.
While staying with me he made me a picture that I have kept in my office. I suggested to the gallery director whom I work with that we mount a show of his work. So what began about 6 months ago has come to pass: Contemporary Persian Art.
Just as Iran has always been at an international crossroad, its art has seen many influences through the ages. Perhaps at times belonging more to Central Asia than the “Middle East,” the art aesthetic in recent decades has made great use of abstract and non-representational elements. Farahani’s work is surprisingly expressive and personal, incorporating autobiographical details such as a microphone, an electric guitar, or a café table inviting us to sit down and enjoy a late-afternoon tea or coffee. Here is art uniquely Persian without cliché or political agenda.