Spring Celebration at the Davis Opens Five Exhibitions, Including Parviz Tanavoli

February 10, 2015
Wall and Script (detail) by Parviz Tanavoli

A newly heightened focus on Middle Eastern artists has been intensifying among institutions, collectors, curators, scholars and patrons alike. Parviz Tanavoli’s art exists at the center of the attention, and that extraordinary art is now featured at the Davis Museum at Wellesley as part of an exciting new season of exhibitions.

Internationally recognized as one of Iran’s foremost artists and widely acknowledged as the “Father of Modern Iranian Sculpture,” Tanavoli’s work has been presented around the world, and has recently appeared in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, Asia Society and the Grey Art Gallery at New York University. The Davis exhibition bearing the artist’s name will be the first solo retrospective to be mounted by a U.S. museum.

Parviz Tanavoli will open to the public at the Davis Museum Spring Celebration tonight, February 10. The evening will begin with a roundtable discussion with Tanavoli and the exhibition curators at 5:00 PM in Collins Cinema. Following the discussion, guests are invited to a reception in the Davis Lobby and viewings in the galleries from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM.

Although Tanavoli is best known for his sculpture, his expansive oeuvre includes painting, printmaking, ceramics, rugs and jewelry. He returns again and again to symbols of the Poet, the Prophet, and the Lovers, to walls and windows, locks, and birds.

Among his many long-standing projects, heech—initiated in February 1965, and set to mark its 50th anniversary with the opening of the Davis exhibition—perhaps best exemplifies Tanavoli’s work. The artist treats the calligraphic script for heech, the Farsi word for nothing or nothingness, to multiple expressions in three dimensions and variable materials—from delicate jewelry to polished bronze and hi-gloss fiberglass sculpture. The concept of heech, as Tanavoli explains, is abstract, philosophical, and celebratory; he says, "Heech is not nothing. It has a body, a shape, but also a meaning behind it.”

The Davis exhibition—selected by The Boston Globe as one of its Top 10 upcoming exhibitions in the Winter Arts Preview, and profiled recently by Gareth Harris in the Financial Times—offers a rare opportunity to view the work of the man that the Middle East Monitor refers to as “Iran’s most celebrated visual artist.” The exhibition also opens a broader conversation about art forms of the Middle East; Davis programming this semester includes a film series spotlighting Women in Modern Iranian Cinema, and a symposium on Art and Reality: Contemporary Middle Eastern Art in Context that will kick off with a screening of the film Parviz Tanavoli: Poetry In Bronze with its director, Terrence Turner, in attendance.

Parviz Tanavoli is curated by Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis, and Brown University’s Shiva Balaghi, one of the foremost specialists on contemporary art of the Middle East. It is made possible with generous support from The Maryam and Edward Eisler/Goldman Sachs Gives Fund on Art and Visual Culture in the Near, Middle, and Far East. Established in 2014 by Maryam Homayoun Eisler '89 and Edward Eisler, the Eisler Fund creates a unique cross-disciplinary platform for research, exhibitions, and scholarship on art and visual culture in the Near, Middle, and Far East and supports ambitious programming that draws heavily on the collections-based, curatorial, scholarly, and pedagogical resources of the Davis Museum and Wellesley College Art Department. Parviz Tanavoli marks the first venture under its auspices.

As noted in Boston Magazine recently, however, Parviz Tanavoli isn’t the only “to do” at the Museum. In true Davis form, the Museum’s season includes several special exhibitions that span a range of mediums, time periods and styles. Hanging with Old Masters: The Reinstallation of the Davis Museum and Edged in Black: Selections from SMS will return to view on February 10 with a new rotation of works. Two additional new exhibitions will also open on February 10, with another two to be introduced on February 24:

Rembrandt and the Landscape Tradition
On View February 10–June 7

Throughout the 17th century, Rembrandt van Rijn and his contemporaries explored the genre of landscape as both the setting for and the subject of their work. Dramatic, inviting, wild, and inhabited, the natural settings frame narratives depicted by these artists and become the focus of the works themselves. This exhibition of drawings and prints drawn from the Davis collections examines changing attitudes to nature in the United Provinces (as the Netherlands were called at the time) and the diverse ways in which landscape—both imagined and observed—was depicted by Rembrandt and other artists of the Dutch Golden Age.

Co-curated by Margaret Carroll, Professor of Art, Wellesley College and Meredith Fluke, Kemper Curator of Academic Programs, with generous support from the Mary Tebbetts Wolfe '54 Davis Museum Program Fund.

Michael Craig-Martin: Reconstructing Seurat
On View February 10–June 7

Conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin trains his eye on French Post-Impressionist George Seurat’s monumental painting Une Baignade, Asnières (“Bathers at Asnières”), 1884, one of the most famous pictures in the collection of the National Gallery, London. Moving several steps beyond Seurat’s own remarkably modern reduction of figures into forms, curves and colors, Craig-Martin deconstructs and reconstructs the image through his signature style: his painting, and two sets of related prints, recast the scene of boys on the banks of the Seine through sharp graphic line drawings with a thrilling pop palette.

Curated by Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro '37 Director, with generous support from Wellesley College Friends of Art at the Davis.

Francesc Torres: What Does History Know of Nail Biting?
On View February 24–June 7

The Davis presents the world premiere of the latest multi-channel video work from acclaimed Spanish artist Francesc Torres.  Examining the extraordinary history of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of American volunteers who went to fight for the Republican side against fascism during the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), the work juxtaposes recently recovered archival footage of these soldiers and their battles with recent documentation of the sites of major military encounters during the Spanish Civil War.  Torres developed the project during his Spring 2014 residency as the Mellon Visiting Artist at Wellesley College’s Newhouse Center for the Humanities.

Curated by Michael Maizels, Mellon Curator of New Media Art, with generous support from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis '28 Fund for World Cultures and Leadership.

On View February 24–June 7, 2015

This exhibition explores the rich holdings of artwork—some iconic and others lesser known—by Andy Warhol (1928–1987) in the collections of the Davis Museum, which were recently greatly enhanced by generous gifts from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. An exciting and challenging array of photographs, prints, and sculpture by the leading figure of pop art will be on view.

Curated by Eve Straussman-Pflanzer, Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs/Senior Curator of Collections. Presented with generous support from Wellesley College Friends of Art at the Davis.

Information on exhibition gallery talks, drop-in tours and other Davis events can be found at theDavis.org. Please also check the Wellesley Events pages regularly for updates on these and other campus events.