Shirana Shahbazi

December 20, 2008 - May 7, 2009


Zurich-based artist Shirana Shahbazi’s photographs capture the quotidian moments of life whether it's a close–up of a gem, a still life, a fallen bird or a portrait of a young girl. She often transforms her photos by hiring commercial sign painters to reinterpret the imagery or commissioning carpet-makers in her native Tehran to weave the pictures into small carpets. During her stay in Los Angeles as a Hammer artist-in-residence, Shahbazi explored the city and developed a new body of work that captures Los Angeles and its surroundings. Her project for the Lobby Wall incorporates several of these new photographs as well as a wall-size painting made by Iranian sign painters, after one of her photographs.


About the Exhibition

By Chris Balaschak


Shirana Shahbazi’s photographs draw attention to photography under normal conditions.1 But what are the normal conditions of photography? Shahbazi answers the question through the presentation of photographic sequences. She has formed a practice that reads like a notebook on the conditions of photographic meaning. A book she produced in 2001, Goftare Nik/Good Words, established this methodology. The book contains an unbroken sequence of full-bleed color photographs Shahbazi took in her homeland, Iran. (The images are part of a larger project with the same title, undertaken between 1999 and 2003.) Despite the potential political weight of the subject matter, the sequence results not in a political statement, but in a series of views of the normal, everyday life of contemporary Iranians. Goftare Nik illustrated how the camera, in the hands of a citizen rather than the state, might delineate a sense of place outside of ideology.


The everyday is a common theme in Shahbazi’s work. Whether she is working in the western United States, Shanghai, her current home of Zurich, or elsewhere, Shahbazi has a sense for capturing the quotidian. Yet the books and finely tuned installations that result from these travels yield other motives. While her images may entice us with a sense of place, the sequences she presents become their own unique places of meaning. Consisting of a selection of photographic genres, and occasionally photographs translated into painting (sometimes then translated back to photography), these sequences are an analytical reflection of photographic media. Engaging its myriad forms, Shahbazi uses presumably “normal” photography to underscore the constructed nature of photographic meaning. More



Hammer Projects: Shirana Shahbazi is presented through a residency at the Hammer Museum. The Hammer Museum’s Artist Residency Program was initiated with funding from the Nimoy Foundation and is supported through a significant grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

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