A landmark exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery marks the first major presentation of works by Iranian-born, Vancouver-based artist Parviz Tanavoli in Canada. Renowned for his unique ability to merge sculpture and poetry, Tanavoli’s exhibition will captivate audiences and ignite a new appreciation for his extensive contributions to modern sculpture.
With more than 100 works spanning six decades of Tanavoli’s career, Poets, Locks, Cages delves into the artist’s exploration of the poet, the lock and the cage as recurring themes. The exhibition displays the full breadth of Tanavoli’s artistic practice, focusing on sculpture while surveying painting, printmaking and mixed media. As one of the foremost contemporary Iranian artists and a highly influential Saqqakhaneh school member, Tanavoli draws inspiration from Iran’s rich history and cultural traditions.
Tanavoli’s sculptural works symbolically exemplify the interplay between Iran’s pre-Islamic and Islamic cultural identities. His ability to capture the duality of these identities sets him apart as one of the foremost contemporary Iranian artists who have achieved such a remarkable feat. Poets, Locks, Cages sheds light on this crucial integration of sacred and secular histories in Tanavoli’s art, offering a rare opportunity for North American audiences to engage with the concept of modernism in Iran.
“The poet is the artist’s self-portrait,” said Pantea Haghighi, independent curator. “The poet, Farhad the Mountain Carver and the artist become interchangeable and reincarnate as Tanavoli maneuvers through Iran’s cultural shifts over the six decades represented in this exhibition. Tanavoli becomes the symbol of persistence and resistance similar to the Mountain Carver.”
A highlight of the exhibition is the inclusion of Tanavoli’s rarely seen and intimate “Wonders of the Universe” series. This remarkable body of work consists of lyrical paintings inspired by Vancouver’s scenery on the unbound pages of antique books, first discovered by the artist in a Tehran bazaar. Visitors have the privilege of experiencing the largest selection of “Wonders of the Universe” ever shown, marking its first-ever presentation in Canada. The exhibition also showcases several antique sculptures from the artist’s collection.
“This is a highly significant exhibition, not only for Vancouver and the Vancouver Art Gallery, but for the world. We are contextualizing a lifelong career of art making and thinking,” said Anthony Kiendl, CEO and Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. “This is the first time that people in [Parviz’s] adopted city of Vancouver will get to see a comprehensive exhibition of his work brought together in one place at one time. We look forward to sharing it with everyone.”
STORY OF AN ARTIST
Parviz Tanavoli was born in Tehran in 1937. Upon graduating from the Brera Academy of Milan in 1959, he taught sculpting at the Tehran College of Decorative Arts. 1961-1963, he taught at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He then returned to Iran and assumed the head of the sculpting department at the University of Tehran, a position he held for 18 years until 1979 when he retired from his teaching duties. Since 1989, he has lived and worked in Tehran and Vancouver, Canada. His work has been displayed at the British Museum London and Tate Modern and in numerous other prestigious venues in Seoul, Vienna, New York, and Iran.
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