Featuring nearly one hundred works made over the past sixty years, Siah Armajani: Follow This Line is the first major U.S. retrospective of preeminent Iranian-American artist Siah Armajani (born 1939). While still a student and activist in 1950s Tehran, Armajani created collages that masqueraded as political broadsheets and presaged many of the concerns now associated with American conceptual art.
The exhibition includes many never-before-seen and recently rediscovered works from the 1960s and '70s, as well as the artist's landmark Dictionary for Building series (1974–75), composed originally of thousands of small-scale architectural maquettes. The exhibition peers through Armajani's eyes as he develops an aesthetic of exile, and asks what the role of public art in America might be today.
Rather than focus on those works that explicitly address exile and associated themes, Siah Armajani: Follow This Line identifies tactics that define this aesthetic across the trajectory of Armajani's practice. For the first time, the artist's sculptures, installations, and drawings are understood as props for public performances. Across the exhibition, props for official or institutionalized speech—such as the sermon, the political speech, the religious recitation, and the broadcast radio program—compete with props for performing magic spells, veiled calls for political activism, and poetry readings.