Iranian artists featured in UConn reads exhibition at Benton museum

Hadieh Shafie (Iranian, b. 1969); Grid 34, 2013; Ink, acrylic on paper adhered to gessoed wood panel. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery, NYC. (Hadieh Shafie / January 25, 2014)

In organizing the first two exhibitions celebrating the UConn Reads program, the permanent collection of the William Benton Museum of Art offered many works of art that connected thematically with those books: “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which dealt with gender-based oppression issues, and “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the classic focused on wealth, urbanization and modernity.

This year’s selection, the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, posed a challenge for Carla Galfano, assistant curator at the Benton, who organized the current exhibit, “Persepolis: Word & Image.”

Galfano says that while the museum’s holdings did not quite match the content of the book – which deals with, among other things, the experience of a young woman growing up at the time of the Islamic Revolution – the art itself offers a strong visual link to Persepolis, as a graphic novel.

“Instead of focusing on the content of the book, we focused on the format,” Galfano says. “We looked at works that feature text as well as images, because this combination of text and image is interesting and also is pervasive in art. Many contemporary Iranian artists use text because calligraphy is such an important part of the culture.”

Drawing strong visual art from the Benton collection, the exhibition includes a wide variety of works ranging from 15th-century illustration and woodcuts to 19th-century lithography and 21st-century mixed media art created for the exhibition.

The pieces in the exhibition were created by an international array of artists, including Iranian artists who lived through the time of the Iranian Revolution. Works by artists born in Iran include “Life in Iran” by Ardeshir Mohassess, reproductions of five line drawings on loan from the U.S. Library of Congresscreated in the post-revolution period 1976 to 1978; “Entropy 17 and 18,” two paintings by Pouran Jinchi, on loan from the Leila Heller Gallery in New York City, that are a colorful swirling cluster of calligraphy on canvas; “Recess of a Journey #1 and #2,” paintings by Afarin Rahmanifar ’96 MFA, an art professor at Eastern Connecticut State University; and “No Names #1-#4,” a watercolor and typeset text on paper series by Deborah Dancy, UConn professor of art and art history in the School of Fine Arts.

Among the works from the Benton collection are “Petroselinum petersilgen,” a hand-colored woodcut on laid paper from 1485 that is an illustration from a gardening book by Johann Wonnecke von Kaub and “Building a Walled City,” a woodcut on laid paper by Jean Dupre, from “La Mer des Histoires” in 1491.

“Persepolis: Word & Image” will continue at the William Benton Museum of Art through March 16. Three programs addressing the exhibition will also take place: Feb. 12, 12:30 p.m., an Artist Talk with Afarin Rahmanifar; Feb. 28, 5 to 7 p.m., The Salon at The Benton: Art & Conversation; and March 4, 12:30 p.m., Gallery Talk in French with docent Nancy Silander. For more information, go to the Benton Museum website:

By The Courant


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