Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Grey Collection surveys art from three nations where unique and vibrant forms of modernism sprang forth in the 1960s and 1970s. Challenging histories of artistic modernism that too often begin and end in the West, “Modernisms” explores an under-recognized flowering of innovation and risk-taking in art beyond Europe and North America.
Influenced by local traditions, cultural exchange and the sights and sounds of modern life, artists in Iran, Turkey and India forged distinctive new modes of expression. From Iranian and Turkish artists who explored calligraphy and ornamentation through avant-garde abstraction, to Indian painters whose expressive canvases drew upon Hindu iconography, the 114 works in Modernisms reflect the lively dialogue between East and West, past and present. Folk dances and weavings inspired Turkish painters Mustafa Esirkuş and Adnan Turani, while Iranian artist Faramarz Pilaram freely translated Islamic architecture into glittering geometric forms. These works testify to both the continuity of culture and the disruption of modernity.
Organized by New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, Modernisms draws from the collection of curator and patron Abby Weed Grey. Grey traveled widely in Asia and the Middle East, searching for art that brought the visual language of modernity into dialogue with non-Western heritages. With a robust collection of some 700 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, she founded the Grey Art Gallery in 1975, stimulating learning through cross-cultural exchange. Through her collection, this exhibition tells a story of “multiple modernities,” reflecting the diversity of formal and cultural responses to the changing world of the 1960s and 1970s.
The exhibition will be on view at Grey Art Gallery at NYU from Sept. 10 to Dec. 7, 2019 before coming to The Block. The exhibition is curated for The Block by Kathleen Bickford Berzock, associate director of curatorial affairs, and Michael Metzger, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts.
Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection is organized by the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, and is made possible in part by the generous support of Dalinc and Mehves Ariburnu; WLS Spencer Foundation; A. Alfred Taubman Foundation; Avid Modjtabai; Violet Jabara Charitable Trust; Charina Endowment Fund; Alaleh and Ariel Ostad; the Grey’s Director’s Circle, Inter/National Council, and Friends; and the Abby Weed Grey Trust. In-kind support is provided by ArtCareNYC Inc. The Block’s presentation of the exhibition is supported in part by generous gifts from Anu and Arjun Aggarwal, Emine and Selim Gulcelik, and by the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
Catalog: Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection
240 pages | Color | Hardcover
Published Oct. 2019 | Hirmer Publishers
Editor: Lynn Gumpert
Modernisms is the first book to offer a crosscultural exploration of modern art from Iran, Turkey, and India. Focusing on select works from the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern Art at New York University, the contributions here discuss significant pieces from the 1960s and early 1970s. Along the way, Modernisms outlines a welcome alternative to the long-dominant focus on North American and western European art.
With nearly seven hundred artworks, the Abby Weed Grey Collection represents the largest institutional assemblage of modern Iranian and Turkish art outside of Iran and Turkey as well as the most important trove of modern Indian art in an American university museum. Modernisms, which accompanies an exhibition at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, introduces paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from the three countries along with biographical narratives on the artists. More than one hundred color illustrations make the book an authoritative visual resource.
Featuring fresh scholarship from a range of voices, among them Fereshteh Daftari, Shiva Balaghi, Susan Hapgood, and Ranjit Hoskote, Modernisms powerfully argues for the importance of nonwestern art as a component of modernity—and defies the long-held belief that other forms of modernism can only be second-rate.
Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Full Moon, 1961
Nevzat Akoral, Porters, n.d
Parviz Tanavoli, Heech, 1972
Faramarz Pilaram, Mosques of Isfahan (B), c. 1962
Maqbool Fida Husain, Virgin Night, 1964
Vivan Sundaram, Keep Slim, 1965
Siah Armajani, Prayer for the Sun, 1962
Francis Newton Souza, Trimurti, 1971
Prabhakar Barwe, King and Queen of Spades, 1967
Eren Eyüboğlu, Design for Mosaic, 1957
Fahrelnissa Zeid, Composition in Red and Blue, n.d.
Abidin Elderoğlu, Six Lines of Abstracted Calligraphy, 1960
Monir Farmanfarmaian, Flowers, 1965
Kamran Diba, Diver, 1967
Wall Street Journal, Michael FitzGerald (September 17, 2019)