The Washington Post

Iranians Abroad

- — Lavanya Ramanathan

“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.

 ??  ?? Amir Rad’s “Untitled,” part of the show “Transform/Nation” opening today at the Ellipse Art Center.
Amir Rad’s “Untitled,” part of the show “Transform/Nation” opening today at the Ellipse Art Center.

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