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The exhibition of contemporary Iranian posters at the L. A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem brings an overview of Iranian graphic designers’ best works, which have won international recognition and admiration over the past few decades. The selection of posters for the present exhibition was based on the rich graphic design collections of the International Biennial of Graphic Design, organized by the Moravian Gallery in Brno (Czech Republic) since 1964, and the Trnava Poster Triennial (Slovakia), established in 1991.
The goal of the exhibition is to expose the visitor to Iranian graphic art, and through it the culture and society of Iran, and to recognize the contribution of Iranian poster designers to Islamic art and its encounter with Western culture. Their high standard of design has burst beyond the boundaries of Iran. The creativity that vibrates in Tehran, despite the prohibitions and restrictions imposed by the regime, has yielded surprising innovations in the realm of traditional calligraphy and contemporary typography.
Fathers of Iranian Poster Art
The title of “fathers” of modern Iranian poster art rightly belongs to Morteza Momayez (1935–2005) and Ghobad Shiva (born 1940). They became the first Iranian members of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), a club of the world’s leading graphic artists and designers, and forged contacts with many widely acclaimed designers. Momayez and Shiva exhibited in Iran, and, since the 1970s, at international exhibitions as well. Their works have been reproduced in graphic art periodicals like Graphis and Novum Gebrauschgraphik, and published in graphic design books. They have put Iranian graphic design on the world map of visual communication, and increased the popularity of poster art among several generations of young Iranian artists.
Posters on Iranian History, Philosophy and Culture
The culture of ancient Iran is one of the oldest in the Middle East. Posters created by Reza Abedini, Majid Abbasi, Mehdi Haghshenas, Ehsan Parsa and other designers, refer to the cultural, historical and religious traditions, and the poets and philosophers of the last one thousand years of Persian and Arab history on the crossroads of ancient civilizations. After the death of Morteza Momayez, Reza Abedini (born 1967) acceded to the leading position in Iranian visual culture. He was the first Iranian designer to defy the boundaries of the national visual style, enriching graphic design with Bauhaus principles he had learned in his architectural studies, and with the inspiration of Qajar lithograph technology (100-150 years ago).
Together with his friend and colleague, Majid Abbasi (born 1965), Abedini founded a group of young Iranian graphic designers called the 5th Colour Art Group. The two men organized important Iranian typographic exhibitions in Tehran and abroad that focused on Iranian history, philosophy and culture.
The Dabireh Collective
While teaching in Tehran, Reza Abedini gathered talented young designers from different art schools, and worked with them on the historical and contemporary relationships between the Arabic and Persian writing systems. The group, which called itself the Dabireh Collective, continued under his leadership for just a few years. It published the results of its members’ research in a book titled Dabireh: Alef , which appeared in 2009. The name Dabireh originated in the alphabet – called din dabireh – that was developed for writing Early Iranian during the Sassanian era (224-651 CE). With the Islamic conquest of Iran in the 7th century, the Persians adapted the Arabic alphabet to the Persian language, and developed the script still in use today.The Dabireh group members, such as Homa Delvaray, Farhad Fozouni, Shahrzad Changlavaee, Aria Kasaei and Iman Raad, were among the most innovative young designers in Iran. They shared a passion for calligraphy and typography, and were very interested in the history of the Persian language and script. The research they conducted as a collective was a ground-breaking experience that greatly influenced their own art and graphic design.
Contemporary Iranian Art
Contemporary Iranian posters mirror everyday life in Iran, painting a fascinating picture of the country’s artistic and social life. Posters introducing art exhibitions, theater performances, and film and literature festivals, combine age-old traditions and artistic techniques with modern art trends, and traditional Persian calligraphy with new digital fonts.
In Iran, graphic design is considered a discipline in its own right. The astonishing beauty of contemporary Iranian posters, which often look like a visual poem or a metaphor of daily life, is inseparable from their sophisticated artistic character.
Political and Social Issues
Modern Iranian posters demonstrate creative freedom, exposing and challenging the cultural and political restrictions imposed by the regime. In a time of censorship and political repression, the fields of graphic design and visual communication have developed a distinctive artistic language for posters, using visual puns, metaphors, and indirect poetic messages.
Sometimes political and social posters reflect the humanistic, ecological or political themes favored by the organizers of international biennials or exhibition curators. Artists are invited to design posters about peace, child labor, health issues, ecology, solidarity, co-existence, multiculturalism, human rights, and other topical political and social issues of the world at large.
Iranian Women in Art and Design
Iran is a country in which more than half the university graduates, and a similar percentage of artists and designers, are female. Iranian women have actively contributed to the arts, crafts and culture for thousands of years, though in the past in more conventionally 'feminine' art forms, like textiles, carpet-weaving and practical crafts. Women entered the art scene in the 1940s, when Reza Shah Pahlavi (the father of the last monarch) gave them the freedom to study and work as artists. Their work forms a bridge between Iran’s rich cultural heritage and modern multidisciplinary techniques, and brings innovative expression to the contemporary visual culture.
This important community of women artists, graphic designers, lecturers, leaders of international workshops, and directors of art and design galleries, has become a visible force in contemporary Iran. Their presence on the national and international art and design scenes has changed the Iranian culture of the visual arts.
Opening Hours:Sunday: closed Monday-Thursday: 10:00-20:30Friday-Saturday: 10:00-14:00