Shirazeh Houshiary at Lehmann Maupin New York

On the occasion of Shirazeh Houshiary’s upcoming exhibition at Lehmann Maupin New York, as well as her participation in Artists and the Rothko Chapelat the Moody Center for the Arts, Houston, and Abstraction and Calligraphy at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, we offer an intimate glimpse into Houshiary’s multidisciplinary practice that spans over four decades.

Early Years and Joining Lehmann Maupin
Shirazeh Houshiary was born in 1955 in Shiraz, Iran. She moved to London in 1974, where she studied at London’s Chelsea School of Art and was a Junior Fellow at Cardiff College of Art, Wales. 

Houshiary quickly became established at the forefront of the New British Sculpture movement in the 1980s, alongside Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, and Anish Kapoor. Her early work consisted of allusive environments and biomorphic sculptural forms, demonstrating an attempt, echoed in later work, to embody spiritual concepts physically. As it developed, her work became more autonomous, austere, and concerned with materials that could symbolize a spiritual transcendence of materiality.

In the late 1980s, Houshiary’s work was prominently featured in internationally renowned exhibitions, including Aperto ‘82, XL Venice Biennale in 1982; Skulptur Projekte 87 in Munster, Germany in 1987; and Les Magiciens de la Terre at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris in 1989. 

By 1994, Houshiary was shortlisted for the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery, London, and in 1996, Houshiary joined Lehmann Maupin—inaugurated that year by Rachel Lehmann and David Maupin. For her first solo exhibition in New York in 1999, she debuted a group of paintings that explored her interest in philosophy, poetry and science of both East and West, creating a cosmology of absence and presence. 

2000s and the Venice Biennale
Throughout the early 2000s, Houshiary presented her work internationally, including solo exhibitions at Tate Liverpool (2003) and The British Museum (1997), as well as celebrated group shows, such as Drawing Dialogues: The Sol LeWitt Collection, The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2016); Made in the UK at RISD Museum, Providence (2011); and What is Painting? Contemporary Art from the Collection at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007).

In 2011, Houshiary also debuted East Window, a permanent site-specific installation in the east window at Church of St. Martin in the Fields (Trafalgar Square, London). 

For the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, Houshiary presented Breath, a four-channel video as part of a unique, site-specific installation. In it, the evocative chants of Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic prayers emanate from four video screens, and the sound is choreographed with images that capture the expanding and contracting breath of the vocalists.

“I set out to capture my own breath, to find the essence of my own experience, transcending name, nationality, cultures.”

In the Studio
Houshiary makes painting, sculpture, and animation that seek to challenge viewers’ perceptions of time, space, and materiality. Her works often engage with the space where opposing ideas can oscillate and transcending the duality of our perception and the attempts to visualize subjects that are inherently intangible—an echo, human breath, or memory.

“I want to see an art that has ambiguity and makes me think about my own evolution in the world that I live in, and my place in the space and time of this universe…”

Upcoming in New York
For A Thousand Folds, Houshiary’s 10th solo exhibition with Lehmann Maupin (April 8–May 28, 2021), the artist will present a selection of new paintings, sculptures, and a video work. The title of this exhibition is inspired from the word “thousandfold,” which suggests an experience that is a conduit for understanding the world around us. Each work unveils fissures or folds as spaces that inhabit our dreams, imaginations, and perceptions.

The artist’s painting technique involves the successive layering of water, pigment, and line drawing, an intense method that often takes several months to complete. Through this process, Houshiary creates a platform for water to express itself, movement is organic and free without being controlled by the artist’s hand. Houshiary takes a similarly methodical approach to her dynamic sculptures such as Aura and Twilight (both 2019), in which she constructs a tower out of Murano glass in an open form that moves in space and that, layer by layer, seems to emerge from the floor.
On view at Lehmann Maupin New York will be Houshiary’s A Cup and a Rose(2019), a digital animation inspired by a small still-life painting by 17th century Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán, which is part of the collection of the National Gallery in London. It is a modern take on the performative, meditative, and contemplative nature of de Zurbarán’s still life through the use of digital technology, transposing it from the 17th century to the present day.

“My film recognizes that this harmony is at odds at this moment in time, where culture and mankind are in conflict with the natural world. I have animated the still-life first with nature as the context, change is manifested through the transformation of the artifacts, and humanity is metaphorically embedded in the whole.”

Around the World
Houshiary’s work is celebrated for both its conceptual rigor and formal impact. Her work is in numerous international public and private collections, including the British Council Collection, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, Italy; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Tate Modern, London.

All images courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.
This press release was received from Lehmann Maupin.
For more information please visit: lehmannmaupin.com