Rossi & Rossi is pleased to announce Shah Abbas and his Page Boy, an exhibition of new works by Iranian artist Fereydoun Ave. Eight large quilts, sourced from Tehran’s bazaars and layered with fabrics collected by the artist over decades, create the backdrop for Ave’s characteristic collage-paintings.
Evoking emerging art forms of the 1960s, Ave’s work brings together the artistic expression of the Western avant-garde – from Abstract Expressionism to the assemblage and collage of Pop – with that of Eastern traditions. The influence of Ave’s contemporaries and collaborators – Warhol, Rauschenberg, Cage, and notably, Twombly, a close friend of the artist – is persistent throughout his work. The collage-paintings that comprise the exhibition champion an unconventional use of media, overt reference and sparse, energetic gestural abstraction.
Ave’s quilts recall Persian pre-modern blankets, or lahaf, that were placed over domestic coal heaters, or korsi, around which people could congregate. This environment, known as Lahaf korsi, was central to the social events of Iranian private life – where families bonded, friendships and plans were made and trysts sealed. Incorporating and adapting this historical situation, Ave presents his contemporary lahaf as complex repositories of human interaction, collaged with textile fragments, found images and applied paint.
The exhibition’s title, Shah Abbas and his Page Boy, references Muhammad Qasim’s 17th century painting of the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I (collection Musée du Louvre). A feared despot, Abbas understood the power of his public image as an accomplished diplomat, brutal strategist and ruthless tactician. However, in Qasim’s painting, the tyrannical ruler is depicted with loving sensitivity towards a young cup bearer who offers him wine, a gesture certainly made in privacy.
Ave’s works are windows into Iranian history and civilization, evoking the forgotten stories, activities and relationships that quietly flourished in the country and eventually disappeared. In Shah Abbas and his Page Boy, Fereydoun Ave has reached into a corner of Persian culture and given us a glimpse of the guarded domestic interior, inverting the conventional boundary between public and private and granting the viewer a glimpse of the intimate, whispered history of Iranian civilization.