Behind the Scenes
Rush Arts Gallery in Chelsea is pleased to announce the opening of The Grand Cypher: Hip Hop, Iran & Syria group exhibition featuring the work of Sajjad Aliyaghi, Tammam Azzam, Alonzo Brown (the original Mr. Hyde), Caitlin Cherry, Aline Dolinh, Farid Farlek, Humans of Tehran, Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi, Immortal Technique, Jenny Holzer, Kinetics, Kim Noble, Shahpour Pouyan, Rakim, Sadra Shahab, Elias Shalhoub, Sham MCs, Saye Sky, Spiritual Mic, Siavash Talaei (Sis Tan), Francis A. Willey, and Ehsan Ziya (Atour). The opening party is April 24 from 6-8pm at 526 West 26th Street, Suite 311, New York, NY 10001. This exhibition continues through May 24, 2014.
This exhibition explores the geostrategic and cultural diplomacy aspects of hip-hop by bringing together visual artworks and handwritten verses by Iranian, Syrian and immigrant youths, rising international stars, and inspiring American, British and Canadian forerunners who in turn reference history. In the accompanying catalog essay, Julie Ashcraft begins, “Chosen for authentic intensity, magnetic beauty and frank content that aligns it with the innate spirit of hip-hop, the artworks in this exhibition combine keen perception with resourceful transcendence.” Shahpour Pouyan combines night vision Iraq war video with Hudson River School painting aesthetics. Fred Wilson pinpoints oil and slave trade routes around a darkened globe. Caitlin Cherry ponders the future of security in her blockbuster painting featuring a giant robot, police cars and lone humanoid figure practicing martial arts. Jenny Holzer provides insight into war planning. Tammam Azzam alludes to the soft power of music versus armed warfare in his limited edition print. Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi contrasts Persian motifs with amorphous clouds of color as free speech and information war engages megaphones and satellite dishes. Farid Farlek addresses appearances versus underlying reality in his assumption-busting digital collages. Elias Shalhoub illuminates the disruptive influence of hip hop upon the grand chessboard in his digital artwork. Francis A. Willey creates an iconic photo of a blindfolded figure which may trigger memories of hostages, detainment or consenting intimate encounters. Ehsan Ziya (Atour)’s documentary photos and portraits present glimpses into the underground world of conscious Hip Hop in Iran, and his recent digital artworks grant entry into the abstract beauty of his heart and mind. Photographs Sadra Shahab took in Von King Park, Brooklyn are a natural extension of his support for public assembly, public spaces and human rights. Humans of Tehran‘s photo of young female skateboarders in Tehran is a heartening reminder that we may have more in common than we realize. Kim Noble‘s painting explores personal identity from the unique perspective of a multiple. Siavash Talaei (Sis Tan)‘s montage of self portraits creates a circle of men seated under a night sky in the desert who look towards the one whose face is illuminated by the glow of a laptop computer. Rakim paints his “Paid in Full” verses, which are proof that talent and ethics have uplifting potential. The catalog essay continues, “Official lines of communication are sometimes superseded in influence by grassroots Hip-hop culture. Revered verses in the Hip Hop canon inspire youths in areas targeted by kinetic and economic warfare to contribute their own incisive commentary reflecting the ways that foreign and domestic policies and international cartels have impacted their personal lives. The music videos from Iran, Syria and America and photographs included in this exhibition provide insight into the abilities of the artists to recognize objective reality while at the same time making history and charting a course for the future.” Video directors include Elias Shalhoub, Sholeh Zahraei, Kamil Saldun, and Farzin. Cinematographers include Alireza Etemadi.
Handwritten Persian, Arabic and English rap verses on paper in this exhibition are contemporary poetic artworks referencing current events and history. Rakim mentions Ayatollah Khomeini; Immortal Technique references Zoraster, Ahura Mazda, and U.S.-supplied WMD; Kinetics compares inept rappers to hikers arrested inside the Iranian border; Sham MCs and Spiritual Mic record the shock of war in Syria, what it’s doing to their society, why it’s happening and people they’ve lost; Alonzo Brown (the original Mr. Hyde) is the founding father of political rap with his 1980 verse on “Rappers Convention” about the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran. An immigrant child and 2013 National Student Poet, Aline Dolinh adds her own perspective on revolution and beauty. Saye Sky addreses the challenges faced by women who fall in love with women in Iran. Sajjad Aliyaghi‘s intense insights and unassuming manner have captured the attention of the underground Hip Hop scene in Iran.
About the Curator: Julie Ashcraft (Jigsawnovich) is a New York based curator, writer, artist and musician who traveled Iran in 2009. Her articles, news and poems have been published by Rolling Stone Middle East, New Musical Express, New In Chess, Yahoo Voices and Lungfull. She was the first female to make a rap record in Europe. It’s in the Cornell Hip Hop Collection. Her artworks have been published in books Definition: The Art and Design of Hip Hop and Fresh: Hip Hop Don’t Stop; and in VOGUE and Decco magazines. Ms. Ashcraft curated “The Jim Jones Group Show” at Alternate Gallery in Dallas, TX.
Rush Arts Gallery will present the works of Edgartista Gonzalez and Jed Foronda, the final national winners and awarded artists of the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series. This exhibition will be on view from February 7th – March 15th 2013 at Rush Arts Gallery located at 526 W 26th Street, Suite 311, New York, New York.