PaperCity Magazine

May 2018- Dallas

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 59 of 83

58 S ara Rahbar has lived her art-making. This is not a talent who has attracted attention by engaging in the history of abstraction or making reductive canvases. Nor does she create wall sculpture from found objects devoid of meaning. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Born in Iran in 1976, Rahbar arrived in the U.S. before she was 10 years old. It was 1982, after her country's revolution. Her family's flight to America involved a harrowing mountainous trek out of Iran through Turkey, negotiated by smugglers who were paid to ferry Rahbar, her parents, and a sibling to safety. This narrative, for anyone encountering the artist's work, inserts itself into the viewing process. Life in the U.S. was confusing and ambiguous. Her parents opened a Persian restaurant in Queens, New York. Her father never assimilated. They divorced, and he returned to Tehran. Rahbar's response was to become an artist. Study in New York and London followed at, respectively, Fashion Institute of Technology, then Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where she completed studies in 2005. The following year, a work from her first series garnered acclaim for its take on the American flag. Within two years, she began showing internationally and, a decade later, at the Venice Biennale 2015. FLAG FEVER Reflecting her immigrant status and her flight to the U.S., Rahbar's "Flags" series has been ongoing for more than a decade. (No reference to Jasper Johns was ever intended; she was unaware of his work at the time.) She has stitched Iranian textiles, joyfully shot with bands of fuchsia and tangerine and golden threads, onto the Stars and Stripes, forging a new identity and a metaphor for her new life in America. She spoke about her process in a 2012 interview for website Hyperallergic: "I have this deep obsession with piecing and holding things together … maybe I'm afraid things are falling apart around me and by sewing and welding things together, they will stay together." Her résumé now is peppered with world capitals where she has exhibited, both in solo and group exhibitions. She initially moved on from the flag series, only to return, embedding it with more military references. At Dallas Contemporary in her first major museum show, Rahbar is poised to generate headlines for her body of work, which has altered meaning along with the changing times of America — and the world. Her assemblages bearing arms and bronze sculptures taken from her own body parts have broader concerns and acquire a deeper resonance. Wooden totems that recall combat backpacks, the staple of U.S. servicemen around the world, become chilling armatures for weaponry and menacing tools. Instead of stowing gear, rations, and keepsakes, its surfaces are hung heavy with rifle butts, saws, and planes that are beacons of unease. Metal hands, legs, and headless torsos hint at torture and the medieval nature of war. And those flags? In lieu of the jubilant textiles of Iran, Rahbar covers them now with the trappings of war. Her art-making has become a conduit for today's global unease, the militarism that continually confronts us, and t h e h i g h l y c h a r g e d n a t u r e of every border. TIMING IS EVERYTHING The Dallas Contemporary's Justine Ludwig, exhibition curator, says, "Rahbar addresses the codified systems of control that we have come to take for granted and the fraught, yet profoundly powerful, notions of belonging and home. I believe these issues to be extremely timely ... They have become part of our quotidian news cycle." Sara Rahbar: Carry me home," at the Dallas Contemporary, through Sunday, August 26, RAHBAR RISING BY CATHERINE D. ANSPON Sara Rahbar's We reap what we sow, 2017, at the Dallas Contemporary. Courtesy the artist and Carbon 12, Dubai.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - May 2018- Dallas