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Tehran To NYC / NYC To Tehran, Curated by Icy & Sot

Posted on June 26, 2014

Iranian Brothers Generate Cultural Exchange Between Two Homes

Icy & Sot, the Iranian Street Artists who have been making their mark on the New York scene for just two years are again making news by curating a gallery show that introduces Iran and the US to one another through the visual vernacular of Street Art.

With two shows running concurrently in Tehran and Brooklyn, the stencil loving spray painters have successfully exposed fans of this genre to the artists in another country with actual examples of art in a gallery setting rather than simply through the Internet. During the South Williamsburg opening on June 13th guests at the TBA temporary space were treated to works by 10 Iranian artists as well as a video projection on the wall of their counterparts  viewing the US artists show at Seyhoun Art gallery, which was recorded only hours earlier.

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Iran’s CK1 in “Tehran to New York” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Without diplomatic relations between the two countries, it is a wonder that this exchange could be cultivated, let alone executed. Given the restrictions imposed upon music, film, literature, and art since the revolution of 35 years ago, it added a layer of incredulity for gallery goers to measure the implications while viewing the works by a youth culture that has as its DNA a certain strain of rebellion.

New York sent the work of 35 artists, an impressively sized roster of participants who were each given size restrictions to keep shipping simpler and costs lower. While the brothers were clearly elated to bring new work to both cities, one might have surmised that the more excited feelings were directed toward their recently departed home where about 55% of the population is estimated to be under 30 years old and a youthful cultural evolution is said to be happening in the artist underground.

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Iran’s CK1 in “Tehran to New York” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Work from the Iranians reveals an accurately studious affinity for the pop of Warhol and irony of Banksy alongside polished versions of wildstyle and more modern graffiti lettering and loose splattering. The larger cross section of New Yorkers sampled from that pot as well as the myriad influences on the streets today including illustration, photography, geometric patterning, cartoon, and collage.

BSA spoke with the brothers as they were installing the New York show:

Brooklyn Street Art: So would you say this is primarily about cultural exchange?
Sot: Yeah, I mean the fact that there hasn’t been any relationship between Iran and the US, but this is totally about the relationship between the artists.

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Iran’s Ill in “Tehran to New York” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: What do you think that a viewer at the New York show is going to realize when seeing these works?
Icy: First of all they are going to get to know the artists because they are not familiar with their work and haven’t had a chance to know them before. Also they will realize the fact that there are people in Iran doing this kind of art. It is underground, it is just a small scene, but still.
Sot: It’s a good chance for these artists to show their work.

Brooklyn Street Art: Would you say that these artists are taking real risks by showing their work like this?
Icy: I mean, for the street artists there everything is risky, putting works in the street… like having the show is stressful but luckily the people there have gotten their permits and stuff.

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Iran’s Cave 2 in “Tehran to New York” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Who did they have to ask for permission and what did they need to see?
Sot: It’s hard to translate the name but it’s an official organization
Icy: They have to check out the work and see it and they have to approve it.
Sot: Yes they have to do that for everything – for music performance or for art exhibits or anything, they have to go through this – but for this show it is at one of the oldest galleries in Iran so.

The guys related some of the exigencies of putting a show like this together and Sot talks about one of the artists who is an old classmate of his who doesn’t use the tools of communication that so many of his peers in the west would. “He doesn’t have a website for his art and he’s not on Facebook,” says Sot, “so I was like Facebook messaging another friend to ask him to call this guy for me and ask him to be in the show, and then to ask him for the status of shipping of his piece or information about the piece.”

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Iran’s Hoshvar in “Tehran to New York”(photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So with the Superman and the Warholian Marilyn, I like this idea where there is a mixing of the two cultures together quite literally.
Sot: Yeah, for these shows there wasn’t really a theme but some artists, because they knew where they were going to be displayed made specific choices to communicate something. Like Gilf! wanted to write something in farsi so she picked the words “I am You” in farsi.
Icy: And El Sol 25 did the words “Iran So Far Away”, which is inspired by the song. (by Flock of Seagulls)

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Iran’s MAD in “Tehran to New York” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: What is one of your favorite pieces here, or rather, which one would you like to talk about?
Icy: I like them when they talk about social issues.
Sot: Like this one with CK1 – it has all these pictures from newspaper with the Shah

Brooklyn Street Art: They look like they may have been around ’81 or ’82…
Icy: Yeah, then the hijab came after the revolution and then the women had to wear the hijab.
Brooklyn Street Art: So before then they didn’t have to wear it?
Sot: No, before that they could choose.
Icy: Then they had no choice.
Sot: And this one with Superman and on his chest it says “love” in farsi and there is Tehran in the background and there is the freedom tower in the background?

Brooklyn Street Art: Is that called “Freedom Tower”?
Sot: Yeah, or Liberty Tower, it’s like the symbol of Tehran. It’s like you have the Statue of Liberty here and that’s the freedom tower in Iran.

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Iran’s CK1 in “Tehran to New York” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Iran’s FRZ in “Tehran to New York” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A more traditional piece by sh’b varies from the Street Art theme and displays the artistic influence of distinctly Persian origins. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

“NYC TO TEHRAN”

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Tony De Pew, Sonni, Hellbent and Bishop203 (photo © Rana Ahmadi)

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Gilf! on the wall with Joe Iurato on the pedestal. (photo © Rana Ahmadi)

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A screened piece by Chris Stain based on a Martha Cooper photo. (photo © Rana Ahmadi)

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Buttless Supreme and El Sol 25 on the bottom. (photo © Rana Ahmadi)

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QRST, Cruz, Phetus (photo © Rana Ahmadi)

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Enzo and Nio, Russell King  and Gilf! (photo © Rana Ahmadi)

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Cern and Contemporary Adult Music (photo © Rana Ahmadi)

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The mood in Tehran (photo © Rana Ahmadi)

The Exhibition NYC to Tehran is currently on view at Seyhoun Art Gallery in Tehran, Iran. Click HERE for more details. The sister exhibition from Tehran to NYC is now closed.

 

 

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