The Brilliant Mirrored Sculptures of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

The kaleidoscopic sculptures of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (1922-2019) are currently on view at both locations of the James Cohan Gallery in New York. These incredible works hold thousands of mirror sections that dance like a diamond under a microscope. Ignited by your own abstracted reflection they offer an otherworldly surprise with every step.

Both locations of the James Cohan Gallery are worth a visit. The Tribeca gallery is the most dazzling, showcasing several large three-dimensional sculptures and the inescapable “Maze” works. The Lower East Side location dives deeper into Monir’s practice of works on paper along with additional mirrored works.

Installation view, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Mirror-works and Drawings (2004-2016), 48 Walker St

Born in Iran, Monir’s devotion to mirrored sculpture began after a visit to mirror mosaics of Shah Cheragh Mosque in Shiraz, Iran. Additionally involved and inspired by the New York art scene, her works dance between the principles of Islamic geometry and aesthetics of Western modernism. Her six-decades of practice resulted in deeply complex work and a powerful voice in the art world.

Installation view, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, James Cohan Gallery, 48 Walker St

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian often explored ideas through “Families” of sculptures, where a single idea or form was explored and reflected through various polygon forms. Three large works from “Fourth Family” demonstrate this concept with “Pentagon”, “Hexagon”, and “Octagon”.

Fourth Family Pentagon, 2013

Fourth Family Pentagon, 2013 (detail)

Fourth Family Hexagon, 2013

Fourth Family Octagon, 2013

Fourth Family Octagon, 2013 (detail)

In a nearby room, the green “Maze” works incorporate reverse-painted glass to achieve the color. Recalling Persian gardens or English labyrinths, your eyes travel through the puzzles and escape through the reflections.

Installation view, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, James Cohan Gallery, 48 Walker St

Square Maze, 2014

With the reflections, you’re also a part of the art piece. Your own appearance, your own face, your own clothing—if you move, it is a part of the art. You’re the connection: it is the mix of human being and reflection and artwork.

– Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

Fifth Family Pentagon, 2014

Fifth Family Pentagon, 2014 (detail)

Untitled Triangle 2, 2016

The drawings in the Lower East Side explore complex geometries on paper using felt-tipped marker and colored pencil (and an occasional triangle of mirrored glass). These works were created after her return to Iran in 2004 after a 26-year exile following the Islamic Revolution. Playing with mathematics, geometry, color, and transparency, these works encourage the eye to spark and dance across the surface.

Geometric, 2014

Geometric, 2014 (detail)

Untitled, 2012

Untitled, 2012 (detail)

I highly recommend enjoying the short 6-minute video on the gallery’s website. It’s brilliantly produced with footage of the artist, an insightful interview with her granddaughter, and sweeping shots of this exhibition to relay just how much these works change and grab the fragments of your reflection. It’s well worth six minutes. If you live in New York however, I strongly recommend a visit to both locations this month (advanced appointments are strongly encouraged here).

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian in her studio, c.1975 Courtesy of the Estate of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

What: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Mirror-works and Drawings (2004-2016)
Where: James Cohan Gallery
Tribeca Location: 48 Walker Street, New York City
Lowe East Side Location: 291 Grand Street, New York City
When: Tribeca Location: January 29 – March 6
Lower East Side Location: January 29 – February 27

Color photographs © Estate of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian 2021, courtesy the estate of the artist and James Cohan, New York. Photo by Phoebe d’Heurle. Studio image courtesy of the Estate of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian.

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