Current & Upcoming Exhibits

Photo of installation of Monday Recollection of the Murqarnas Dome

Shahpour Pouyan
Monday Recollection of the Murqarnas Dome 

April 2-28, 2019
Barbara Walters Gallery

The Barbara Walters Gallery at Sarah Lawrence College is pleased to present Monday Recollection of the Murqarnas Dome, a solo exhibition of works by Shahpour Pouyan. The exhibition will be on view from April 2-28 at the gallery’s location in the Heimbold Visual Arts Center at Sarah Lawrence College. An opening reception will be held Tuesday, April 2, from 5-6:30 p.m.

Pouyan’s presentation explores ideas of human preservation and perception of images. Pouyan was fascinated by the extraordinary shape of the tomb of the 11th century Muqarnas dome of Sharaf ad-Dawla, a Shi’ite mausoleum near Mosul, Iraq, recently destroyed by ISIS, with a structure that resembles a colossal Cubist sculpture, yet predates European modernism by almost a thousand years. Murqarnas—geometric ornamental motifs suspended from the interiors of domes and underside of corniches—have become ubiquitous throughout Islamic architecture resulting from the precise geometric subdivision of squinches. With a flamboyant exterior that mirrored the extravagantly vaulted interior, the Murqarnas dome was almost unique to Iraq, which now has four or fewer surviving examples. Most were destroyed during the 13th century Mongol invasion, the remainder currently being targeted by the present occupier.

Prior to the mausoleum's destruction in October 2014, Pouyan had kept an image of it pinned to his studio wall, hoping that he would one day visit it. Devastated by the news of its destruction and the realization that he would never see a monument of this type, he devised a way to preserve the image. Each week he would make a drawing of the tomb from memory, emphasizing the details of the Muqarnas structure, form, and ornamentation, with no recourse to the original image or his previous drawings. As his memories developed the drawings became a personal documentation of the human mind’s inability to accurately document. Pouyan’s allusion to the practices of oral history, the drawings of ancient explorers, and the processes by which an experience changes and evolves over time and space in our minds closely corresponds to the cross-fertilisation of ideas and images across borders and cultures that has been prevalent to Western Asia.

About the Artist

Born in Iran in 1979, Shahpour Pouyan has an MFA in Integrated Practices and New Forms from Pratt Institute, New York, and has an MFA in Painting from the Tehran University of Art. He previously studied Neoplatonic Philosophy at the Iranian Institute of Philosophy and received a diploma in Math and Physics from Elmieh School, Tehran. Between 2007 and 2009 he taught art history and the history of Persian architecture at Science and Culture University, Tehran. He currently lives and works in New York.

Pouyan has had numerous solo gallery shows at: Lawrie Shabibi in Dubai, Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris, and Copperfield in London. He has participated in Biennales and group shows such as British Museum in London, MFA Houston, The Armory Show, Art Basel Miami, Lahore Biennial in Pakistan, Yinchuan Biennale in China, and Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kochi Island, to name a few.

His work is part of many prominent private and public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The British Museum, The Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern Art, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

In 2016, Pouyan was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize 4 by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK and has been awarded the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship for Visual Arts in Umbria, Italy. He has participated in several international residencies including International Cite Des Arts, Paris, the Pegasus Art Foundation, Hyderabad, India, and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NY, USA in March 2014.


ABOVE IMAGE: Installation of Monday Recollection of the Murqarnas Dome
Set of 39 drawings, 2015-16
Mixed media on paper
12 x 9 1/8 in (each)