The Washington Post
“As a responsible citizen of the United States, I oppose my country’s brutal foreign policy.” Haleh Niazmand’s words, plastered large and ominous over giant fingerprints in the center room of the Ellipse Arts Center in Arlington, set the tone for “Transform/Nation,” an ambitious exhibition of contemporary Iranian diasporic art opening tonight.
That is to say political and religious statements — the hijabs and explorations of Orientalism — are very much on display. But there’s also some fantastic modern work in the show, something aesthetically forward from these artists, who come from the United States, Germany, France and Iran.
The show has been organized by Iranian Alliances Across Borders, a Washington-based nonprofit working to give voice to people of Iranian descent living abroad. Not long after Iran was labeled part of an “axis of evil” — and thus a subject of curiosity — curators from the group put out a call for submissions in art magazines and on e-mail discussion groups, drawing more than 250 entries exploring identity, stereotypes and tradition. Then one curator traveled to Tehran, where the group was assembling a concurrent show featuring different artists, with more emphasis on those from Iran.
The highlights are many: The young Jairan Sadeghi contributes three pieces, each quirky and cool; Amir Rad’s “Untitled” is a modern Mona Lisa. Also not to be missed: The show features four video artists, and Farideh Shahsavarani’s captivating “Moutra” recalls nothing less than a Matthew Barney. The show opens with a reception tonight from 6 to 9. (There are also other events in conjunction with the show: On July 12, the Enchanted Strings Persian classical ensemble performs a lunch-hour concert, noon-1 p.m. On July 19, there’s a panel titled “The Power of a Cliche” from 7 to 9 p.m., featuring two artists from the show, one of its co-curators and an editor discussing the politics of representing the Middle East in art. Photographer Haleh Anvari will also be at Busboys and Poets on July 18 for a spoken-word performance.)
Free. Through Aug. 4. Ellipse Arts Center, 4350 N. Fairfax Dr., Arlington. 703-228-7710.