Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s art practice draws on decades spent in Iran, her birthplace, and New York City, where she attended Parsons and entered the vibrant art scene. Her pioneering artwork was recently on view in Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility. Mirror Works and Drawings, 1974–2014, a comprehensive exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum.
After receiving a certificate in fashion illustration at Parsons, Farmanfarmaian worked alongside Andy Warhol as an illustrator at the department store Bonwit Teller and befriended artists including Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, and Jackson Pollock. Upon returning to Tehran in 1957, she began exploring traditional Iranian art and experimenting with sculpture. Rooted in both Islamic geometric forms and minimalist and abstract art, her distinctive aesthetic is apparent in works such as Untitled (Sculpture 2). In the piece, she transforms a traditional Islamic design into a gyroscope of concentric hexagons.
To create her sculptures, Farmanfarmaian and master craftsmen build stuccoed armatures that are covered in pieces of mirrored glass, applying a centuries-old technique in a modern way. She describes her three-dimensional panels as “something new, something old, all swirling together in a dazzle of light and color and unpredictable angles.” After two decades living in New York following the 1979 Revolution, she resumed her practice in Tehran, beginning a period of intense creativity. At 90, she says, “Whatever time I have left, I want to make art.”