TEHRAN - Homage is finally being paid to one of Iran’s most prominent artistic figures of the 20th century. Bahman Mohasses who died in 2010 and came to the attention of an international audience through Mitra Farahani’s biopic Fifi Howls from Happiness, is finally receiving well-deserved recognition. Tehran’s Ab/Anbar has just hosted one of the most important non-selling solo shows on him, bringing together 60 works – some hitherto unseen, others not viewed by the public for over 40 years, and many more stored in private collections since first purchased by the collectors directly from Mohasses. A beautiful catalogue whose entries and introductory essays serve as a reference work, accompanies the exhibition.
BAHMAN MOHASSESS, AGAMEMNON, CIRCA 1965. PLATE TAKEN FROM THE CATALOGUE BAHMAN MOHASSESS IN 60 PIECES OF A LOST BODY, TEHRAN, AB/ANBAR GALLERY, 2015.
Having spoken to two of the curator/organizers of this challenging project, I realized what a labour of love it had been. Salman Matinfar described it as a form of archaeological excavation – digging to find more and more information about this reclusive and enigmatic figure. Morad Montazami of the Tate Modern told me: “Bahman Mohasses is a landmark figure in the history of Iranian art as he was not only a painter but also a sculptor, a stage director and translator, elaborating a unique aesthetic of tragic vision and mutilated humanity – never before seen in Iran. Themes of catastrophe, the grotesque, and violence are all part of his intercultural dialogue with the Surrealists, Giacometti, Henry Moore, primitivism and even imaginary survivals of antiquity. As a close protégé of Empress Farah Diba, he received a number of official sculpture commissions to which he replied iconoclastically.”
BAHMAN MOHASSESS, UNTITLED, 1966. PRIVATE COLLECTION.
Also close to the poet Nima Yusheej, Mohasses saw himself as the visual manifestation of the former’s poetic spirit. The line, “Where O where in this dark night should I hang my coat…” harks to many of Mohasses’s dismembered figures, his disturbing canvases with even the still lifes and the fish looking dark and brooding. He found beauty in ugliness and infused the demons of his canvas with an odd classicism. Ending his days alone in Rome with nothing but a few works that had survived his destructive sprees, he thought himself surrounded by the ghosts of bygone times and fellow artists such as Nima.
BAHMAN MOHASSESS, SELF-PORTRAIT, 1994. PRIVATE COLLECTION.
Bahman Mohassess In 60 Pieces of a Lost Body was simultaneously exhibited in Ab/Anbar and Aria galleries from 22 May to 12 June.