In 1952 an Iranian-Assyrian student Hannibal Alkhas came to the U.S to study medicine, but decided instead to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There he studied under Boris Anisfeld, one of his most influential teachers. After returning to Iran, Alkhas helped modernize the pedagogy of painting in the School of Fine Arts at the University of Tehran, where he taught many prominent Iranian artists. In 1963 another young artist, Mehdi Hosseini, came to Chicago and enrolled in the painting department at the School of the Art Institute. Having experienced the Midwestern art scene, he returned to Iran and started teaching at art universities, becoming one of the pioneers of Iranian contemporary art. Though he is not heavily represented on the market, he is one of the leading historians of Persian painting and is on the faculty of the University of the Arts in Tehran.
After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many families moved to the U.S to seek a better life. These families stayed and gave birth to children who are now second generation Iranian-Americans. A few members of this generation have chosen to pursue art and have been constantly challenged by issues of identity due to their dual heritage. Many have struggled against art criticism that uses their heritage as an interpretive lens for their practice, which raises the question: Why have art critics, curators and audiences persisted in identifying these artworks with a particular region?
In 2010, despite financial hardship and sanctions, the next generation of artists came from Iran to pursue their graduate degrees in American art schools, which had been an uncommon choice for the previous 30 years. The lack of Iranian artists in the Western art scene sets narrow expectations for these recent immigrants, who were forced to respond to their experience in a new environment.
“Sedentary Fragmentation” tries to bring together Iranian voices, generations, and alumni who studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but whose practices are individual and different. This exhibition will show how these nine artists subtly use and reveal their identities in a politically complex milieu. Showcasing archival materials from the artists’ experience in both Chicago and Tehran, this exhibition offers challenging points of view about several generations of artists who are often misrepresented by having identities placed upon them that do not define them as artists.
Hannibal Alkhas (1930, Iran)
Hannibal Alkhas (1930-2010) painter, sculptor, writer, poet and translator. Alkhas began his artistic training as a child in Iran and went on to receive his Master of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1959. In addition to over fifty years as a professional painter, he had a long career in Iran and in the United States as an art professor and mentored many aspiring artists. He also established the successful Gilgamesh Gallery, one of the very first modern art galleries in Iran. His works have been exhibited in Iran, Europe, Canada, Australia, Israel, Dubai, and the US. He published art criticism, collections of short stories, children’s books and memoirs in Farsi, and composed many poems in his native Assyrian (Syriac). After attending his 80th birthday retrospective exhibition in Iran, Hannibal Alkhas died in California on September 14, 2010. He wrote and painted actively until his final illness.
Mehdi Hosseini (1943, Iran)
Mehdi Hosseini is a faculty member at the University of the Arts, Tehran. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1968 and MFA from Pratt Institute of New York in 1970. Hosseini is a permanent member of The Iranian Academy of Arts and an honorary member of Iran Painters Community. He has supervised many graduate students at the Ph.D level. He has shown nationally and internationally. Hosseini has received “Grade 1” degree of excellence in visual arts by the Academy of Arts in Iran.
Raha Raissnia (1968, Iran)
Raha Raissnia (b.1968 Tehran, Iran) creates complex works which combine painting, film and drawing. Much of her work is focused on exploring the intersection of these different mediums and how each informs the other in terms of their materiality and their respective processes of making. Raissnia lives and works in Brooklyn and is represented by Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York, Ab/Anbar Gallery in Tehran, Iran, Galeria Marta Cervera in Madrid, and Galerie Xippas in Paris. She received her BFA from the School of the Art institute of Chicago in 1992 and her MFA from Pratt Institute in 2002. In 2015, her work was included in All the World's Futures, 56th Venice Biennale curated by Okwui Enwezor. Recent solo exhibitions were held at Ab/Anbar Gallery (Tehran), Miguel Abreu Gallery, Galeria Marta Cervera (Madrid), Galerie Xippas (Paris), and the Isfahan Museum of Contemporary Art (Isfahan, Iran).