Curator Andrea Fitzpatrick has conducted extensive research into Iranian culture and in 2010 travelled to Tehran to do field work. Discourses about Middle Eastern art tend to be preoccupied by certain issues: femininity, the veil, gender disparity, religious tradition, and revolutionary conflict. This exhibition shifts the focus by considering the following themes: masculinity; female agency; secular activities (for example, café-culture, amateur wrestling, or extreme body building); Persian traditions; and the unique situation of Iran.
The artists communicate visual messages that are by necessity subtle and ambiguous. They use strategies such as metaphor and allegory, the blurring of boundaries between fiction and documentary, and the adoption of visual styles more typical of fashion, advertising, and graphic design. Understanding of Iranian art will differ depending on one’s knowledge of the country. However, works in this show also offer audiences an opportunity to abandon old assumptions and gain new insights about the culture.