Mohsen Vaziri-Moghaddam


Mohsen Vaziri Moghaddam (Persian: محسن وزیری مقدم; 27 July 1924 – 7 September 2018), was an Iranian-born painter, sculptor, and a professor of art. He was most notable for his style of abstract expressionism, and was once referred to as the “pioneer of modern Iranian abstraction.”[1]

Life and education[edit]
Mohsen Vaziri was born on 27 July 1924 in Tehran, Qajar Iran.[2]

Shortly after obtaining his diploma at the Agricultural Institute in 1943, he applied to the Faculty of Fine Arts at Tehran University (now University of Tehran) and he attended for three years.[2] During his years at university, he felt the influence of impressionism and post-impressionism, especially in the work of Van Gogh, in both subject matter and expressive form.[2]

In 1952, his first solo exhibition was held at the Iran-America Society in Tehran.[2]

From 1955 to 1958, Vaziri studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome.[2] In the April of 1956, Vaziri had his first Italian exhibition, displaying his figurative paintings at the Portonovo Art Gallery in Rome. In the same year, he exhibited in Düsseldorf and Munich in Germany.[citation needed]

In 1957, Vaziri attended Toti Scialoja’s classes at the Academy for six months and began experimenting with abstract art.

Vaziri shared a vibrant artistic vision with now internationally-known artists who also attended Scialoja’s course, notably Pino Pascali, Jannis Kounellis, Mohamed Melehi, Maria Pioppi, and Mario Ceroli.[2] They frequently met at di Ripetta and Piazza del Popolo in Rome. Film director Mario Ricci once described it as “our Latin Quarter”.[citation needed]

His first abstract works were produced between 1956-1959. Through 1959 and 1960, he developed a vision of abstract art through experiments highly focused on materials. This led to the creation of the sand paintings — where different types of sand were applied to a canvas in their natural state or mixed with colorants. His original concept grabbed the attention of Italian art critic Giulio Carlo Argan and Palma Bucarelli, director of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna.[2]

After a long period in Italy, he returned to Iran, where he taught until 1978 at both the Faculty of Decorative Arts and the Faculty of Fine Arts in Tehran. In those years, he wrote two art methodology textbooks: Drawing method vol. 1 (1974) and Drawing method vol. 2 (1981). He translated several art books on Paul Klee, German Expressionism, Venetian craftsmanship and 20th century painting from English, French and Italian into Persian.[2]

In 1965, Vaziri’s Untitled (1962) by was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[3]

In 1967, he began working on a series of reliefs made of aluminium and iron sheets and was still anchored to a mono-dimensional approach.

In 1968, Vaziri moved to the Cité des Arts in Paris, thanks to a grant, and he continued developing his work with aluminium and wood. That same year, his works were presented at Royan International Festival and exhibited at the national TV headquarters.

Once he returned to Iran that same year, he began making articulated sculptures – open and interactive artworks with moving parts that encouraged viewer participation. During the 1970s, these sculptures would in turn inspire a series of paintings entitled Fear and Flight derivative of the well-defined shapes of these previous sculptural works.[2] Alberto Moravia and Pierre Restany are amongst the critics who wrote about his work.[citation needed]

A constant and essential theme in his work–whether in painting or sculpture–was that of space, which led to results much appreciated by critics (Argan, Moravia, Bevilacqua, Menna, Pensabene)[citation needed] and to a recognition awarded by the City of Rome (1958), Prime Minister Segni (International Art Competition, Ravenna 1959) and the Senate Gold Medal (Sassoferrato 1962).[citation needed]

His works have been shown in numerous solo exhibitions in Italy (Rome, Milan, Florence), Germany (Dusseldorf, Munich), and Iran, at the Venice Biennial (1956, 1958, 1960, 1962), at the Tehran Biennial (1960, 1962), at the Rome Quadriennale (1960), at the Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil (1963), at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1964) and at the Shiraz Art Festival, Iran (1969).[citation needed]

In 1985, Vaziri decided to return to Rome with his wife and two children.[2]

In the 1990s, Vaziri explored Persian calligraphy shapes, emphasizing the minimalism of line. He continued to test himself with abstract compositions that were distinct from one another and characterized by either highly defined shapes and intense colors or vague silhouettes and soft pastel colors.[2]

In 1999 his Persian translation of The Mind and Work of Paul Klee by W. Hahtmann was published; he resumed contact with Iranian universities and held several lectures.[2]

In 2003 Vaziri was affected by an eye disease, that would considerably reduce his eyesight. Despite this, he resumed one of his previous techniques from the end of the 1950s, using large splashes of color that reflected his way of seeing reality.[2]

In 2004, he exhibited at the major solo “Fourth Exhibition. Pioneers of Iranian Modern Art: Mohsen Vaziri Moghaddam”, at Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, also featuring works by Gerhard Richter. On this occasion, Vaziri was hailed and officially awarded as the “best Iranian artist of the century”.[citation needed]

In 2013 one of his sculptures (Forms in Movement) and the sand painting that is part of the MoMA collection were exhibited at the “Iran Modern” exhibition, a major retrospective on Iranian dynamic modern art, held at the Asia Society Museum in New York.[citation needed] In 2014, the same sculpture was exhibited at the contemporary art exhibition “Artevida corpo” at the Fundação Casa França-Brasil, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[citation needed]

In 2017, the Mohsen Vaziri Moghaddam Foundation was created in Rome following the wish of the artist and his sons to archive Vaziri’s work and legacy. The Foundation organized its first event in the industrial area of Ex Dogana in Rome, where Vaziri made a large-size sand artwork across 20 canvases.[2]

In 2021 a major exhibition on Vaziri’s articulated wooden and plexiglass sculptures entitled “Unrealised Projects – Dynamic Sculptures from Small to Monumental 1968-2018” was held at Argo Factory, with the support of the Italian Embassy in Tehran.[citation needed] The exhibition offered a continuous dialogue between original sculptures and new reproductions, so that visitors had the opportunity to interact with the artwork just like Vaziri used to encourage visitors to do in his exhibitions.

One of Vaziri’s Untitled (1968) is currently on display as part of the touring exhibition “The Dynamic Eye: Op and Kinetic Art” organized by Tate Modern and Pudong Museum of Art, Shanghai.[citation needed]

His works are held in the public collections of museums by the Museum of Modern Art;[4] the Parviz Tanavoli Museum,[5] and the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.[6]

Notable exhibitions[edit]
1952: (debut solo exhibition), Iran-America Society, Tehran
1956: Portonovo Art Gallery, Rome
1958: Venice Biennial
1960: Tehran Biennial
1960 Venice Biennial (1958, 1960, 1962, 1964)
1950: Rome Quadriennale
1962: Tehran Biennial
1962: Venice Biennial (1958, 1960, 1962, 1964)
1962: São Paulo Biennial, Brazil (1962)
1963: (group exhibition), São Paulo Biennial, Brazil [7]
1964: Museum of Modern Art, New York
1964: Venice Biennial
1969: Shiraz Arts Festival, Iran
2004: Contemporary Art Museum, Tehran (with Gerhard Richter)
2009: Pioneers of Modern Iranian Art, Tehran [8]
2011: Pioneers of Modern Iranian Art, Tehran [9]
2013: Iran Modern Exhibition (group exhibition; first major exhibition of post-war Iranian art)[10]
2014: Artevida Corpo (travelling exhibition at venues throughout Rio de Janeiro), Fundação Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil[11]
2018: Mohsen Vaziri Moghaddam: The Iranian Pioneer of Modern Abstraction, Setareh Gallery, Duselldorf[12]
2018: Modernism in Iran: 1958–1978, (group exhibition) [13]

  • Birthday: July 27, 1924
  • Death: September 7, 2018
  • Birthplace: Tehran, Tehran, Iran

Painter, Sculptor and Professor of Art

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