The work of the Iranian-American artist Siah ARMAJANI (1939-2020) spans public art, sculpture, painting and drawing. In the late 1950s, while still a philosophy student at the University of Tehran, Armajani launched his artistic career. Although best known for his large-scale public projects of which the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge (1988) and the Gazebo for Four Anarchists (1993) are perhaps the most notable examples, during his life Armajani worked on a series of small studio sculptures drawn from imagery inspired by vernacular Americana, the Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism. His work developed at the intersection of architecture, mathematics, engineering, and philosophy and was spurred by an investigation of what art in the public sphere can do for a community. In his manifesto Public Sculpture in the Context of American Democracy, Armajani notes: “Public sculpture is a search for a cultural history which calls for structural unity between the object and its social and spatial setting. It should be open, available, useful and common.” Later in life, Armajani returns to a direct engagement in politics, which characterised his early years in Iran: Fallujah (2004-2005) and the series Seven Rooms of Hospitality (2015–2017) are key works from this later period.
Armajani’s work has been included in numerous solo exhibitions, including his retrospective ‘Siah Armajani: Follow This Line’, which first opened in 2018 at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and then travelled to the Met Breuer, New York, the following year. Other solo exhibitions include those organised at the MAMCO, Geneva, Switzerland (2013); The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, USA (2008); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (1999); Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain (1996); Philadelphia College of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1979), amongst others. Armajani showed in signal group exhibitions, including ‘Art by Telephone’, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (1969); and ‘Information’, MoMA | Museum of Modern Art, New York (1970), amongst others and designed public commissions around the world, including in Münster, Germany, for Skulptur Projekte Münster; in Battery Park City, New York, in collaboration with Scott Burton and César Pelli; at Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York; and in Atlanta, for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. His work is included in important public collections, including MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; the British Museum, London, UK; and Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany, amongst others.