As a boy in Tehran in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, Ali Banisadr had a friend whose apartment building was sliced neatly in half by a bomb, revealing a cross-section of its interior. From the street, he could see the room where he had played, complete with wallpaper and children’s toys.
Born in 1976, Mr. Banisadr was 12 years old when his family moved to the U.S., but his tumultuous childhood still fuels his work as an artist. That is clear in his new show, which opened this week at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., and includes a dozen paintings and prints made over the last five years. The references are as current as Covid-19 and the George Floyd protests, but Mr. Banisadr’s work is also rooted in art history. He often evokes the world of Hieronymus Bosch, creating large canvases thickly populated with creatures that are mixtures of human, animal and robot. The work of Bosch “never stops giving,” says Mr. Banisadr, “He had this way of zooming out and looking at the world from…a macro level,” showing “the folly of humanity in general. I’m in tune with that.”
The new exhibition is part of the Wadsworth’s Matrix series, which has given major contemporary artists like Gerhard Richter, Carrie Mae Weems and Barbara Kruger their first solo museum shows in the U.S. Patricia Hickson, a curator of contemporary art at the Wadsworth, observes that Mr. Banisadr’s work has a special mixture of timeliness and timelessness that puts him outside the mainstream: “I don’t really see him fitting into current trends,” she says.
Image: Ali Banisadr, The Prophet, 2020
© Ali Banisadr