Kamrooz Aram’s series Ancient through Modern constructs collages from mid-century catalogues and art history books in which these artworks and objects circulate. In their Modernist-tinged layout and photography, these publications constitute an important part of the West’s engagement with the Middle East. The images, meanwhile, work to produce a certain kind of longing for a richer, more glorious time for many Iranians today.
By aggrandising the distant past, these objects feed a collective desire to establish a civilisational genealogy and create a sense of cultural nostalgia which belies the complicated relationship between non-Western artworks and the development of Western modernism.
Over the last few years, Kamrooz Aram has spent much time questioning the neutrality of exhibition displays as well as the ways in which artworks are reproduced in museum catalogues and art history books. While museum visitors view ancient art and artifacts in a seemingly neutral environment, the exhibition designs that we know of today are essentially derived from Modernist aesthetics. In a neutral environment, the object is displayed in a manner that allows the object to exist autonomously. However, Aram questions whether such a neutral context is possible at all.
This research has resulted in a variety of artworks in the ongoing Ancient Through Modern project, ranging from collages created from the pages of mid- century catalogues of ancient Iranian art, to large-scale wall installations consisting of collages, painting and ceramics. The installations in this series engage ancient Persian art through decidedly Modernist methods and aesthetics.
Looking to displays in a variety of encyclopedic museums such as the Louvre, The Victoria and Albert Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as a variety of Modernist architects and designers such as Carlo Scarpa, Aram creates works that engage the museum display and exhibition design directly as an essential part of the artwork. The notion of the decorative is brought into question. The geometric abstraction paintings an essential part of Modernist discourse—function as mere backdrops, while objects perceived as decorative arts take on a prominent role in forming the content of the work. The link between encyclopedic museums and Modernism is emphasized, reminding the viewer of their historically complicated and often fraught relationships.
Titles: 1.Untitled (from the series, Ancient Through Modern 9 ), 2015, acrylic, pencil and paper collage on linen 2. Untitled (from the series, Ancient Through Modern 20), 2015, acrylic, pencil and paper collage on linen 3. A Collection of Uncertain Objects, Part 1, ( from the series Ancient Through Modern), 2014 4. Collage 18 (from the series Ancient Through Modern) 2015, acrylic pencil and paper collage on linen 5.Untitled (from the series 7000 Years) 2015, mixed media on paper 6. Untitled (from the series, Ancient Through Modern 19), 2015 Acrylic, pencil and paper collage on linen 7. Monument to the Sick Man of Europe, (from the series Ancient Trough Modern ) 2014 8. Untitled (from the series, Ancient Through Modern 1), 2015, acrylic, pencil, fabric and paper collage on linen 9. Untitled (from series Ancient through Modern 5), 2015, Mixed media on linen 10.Untitled (from series Ancient Through Modern14) 11. A Collection of Uncertain Objects, Part 1, (from series Ancient trough modern) 2014.
All images are courtesy of Green Art Gallery, Dubai.