Asia Society Museum in New York presents exhibition of work by Reza Aramesh

Reza Aramesh, Action 132: Saigon, 5 August 1963 (detail), 2013

Reza Aramesh. Action 132: Saigon, 5 August 1963 (detail), 2013. Hand-carved limewood, polychrome.
H. 26 7/8 x W. 17 x D. 12 1/8 in. (68.1 x 43.2 x 30.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery.
Photograph courtesy of Reza Aramesh.

Asia Society Museum presents an exhibition of sculptures by Reza Aramesh, depicting young men in pain, sourced from war reportage images and inspired by seventeenth-century Spanish Christian painted limewood sculptures of martyred saints. Aramesh’s sculptures explore the power imbalance between captor and captive and the aestheticization of violence in media coverage of wartime atrocities. The exhibition is on view March 5 through August 4, 2019.

“A lot of my artworks are attempts to navigate the history of war and, in particular, the history of the subjected body into mythology,” the artist says. “I am using social and political conflicts of the present time and recent past as source materials in order to link to and create a dialogue with the artists of the past.” Among the influences he cites are Goya, José de Ribera, Andrea Mantegna, and Caravaggio.

Like the title of the exhibition—Reza Aramesh: 12 noon, Monday 5 August 1963—the titles of the works refer to specific historic political events and conflicts. Aramesh’s decision to use limewood and his hyperrealistic style elevates the statues to the level of religious icons. His models—predominantly young, non-European male subjects—exude a homoerotic sensibility that adds a charged religious and sexual dynamic to the representation of violence, and evokes military use of sexual humiliation as a form of torture.

The four sculptures on display are featured against what at first glance appears to be neo-Baroque decorative wallpaper. Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the images of tortured figures form the wallpaper’s motif. For his design, the artist selected a shade of green known as eau de Nil (water of the Nile), a color that dominated nineteenth-century upper-class interiors as part of the Egyptomania craze that swept colonial-era Europe. This backdrop evokes a politically-fraught period of colonial conquest that mirrors contemporary society’s troubling penchant for violence to achieve socioeconomic and political gains.

About the artist
Reza Aramesh was born in Iran in 1970 and currently lives and works in London. He has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions. Reza Aramesh: 12 noon, Monday 5 August 1963 is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States.

Exhibition support
Generous support for Reza Aramesh: 12 noon, Monday 5 August 1963 is provided by Sonny and Gita Mehta.

Support for Asia Society Museum is provided by Asia Society Global Council on Asian Arts and Culture, Asia Society Friends of Asian Arts, Arthur Ross Foundation, Sheryl and Charles R. Kaye Endowment for Contemporary Art Exhibitions, Hazen Polsky Foundation, Mary Griggs Burke Fund, Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and New York State Council on the Arts.

About Asia Society Museum
Asia Society Museum presents a wide range of traditional, modern, and contemporary exhibitions of Asian and Asian American art, taking new approaches to familiar masterpieces and introducing under-recognized arts and artists. The Asia Society Museum Collection comprises a traditional art collection that includes the initial bequests of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, and a contemporary art collection.

Asia Society Museum is located at 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. and Friday from 11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. Closed on Mondays and major holidays. General admission is $12, seniors $10, students $7; and free for members and persons under 16. Free admission Friday evenings, from 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. The Museum is closed Fridays after 6:00 P.M. in July and August. Find out more at www.AsiaSociety.org/NY.