Yasi Alipour

Imagine a piece paper in a corner: an old letter, a fading memory, a tale told decades ago. These fragmented moments hold the kind of truth that can never fit in history books. They are what I carry with myself as Iran.

Next to this is a black piece of paper with hundreds, thousands of lines; folds that have carved into the surface. The hand subtracts from the paper and one remains with the intricate silver lines. The forms take inspiration, borrow, and steal from that of the past. They allude to a once ideal form. But here they play, repeat, move. They become undone, remain unfinished. Here they are but a map to spiraling thoughts. They stand as witness that my hand and body was present.

I write to you as an Iranian Female artist. I use these words cautiously, as they seemed to have ceased to carry any meanings. For me, Iran is not a romanticized National identity, it is simply a lived experience. It is memories of both the authoritarian state and the small moments that stand as prove the beautiful defiance that is in the persistence of the daily life. It is the simple tales of the past that were shared at home to oppose the state’s propaganda; it is recalling the summer that women dared to wear color again; it is the most radical of political debates happening among strangers sharing a cab; it is the memory of protesting in University of Tehran’s campus. It is the experience of par-participating in the 2008 Green Movements, it is the carrying the bitter taste of its failure. It is learning over and over again that the state held all power—and so we left our country. It is the weight and anxiety of anticipating the possibility of war, yet again.

Now as an artist based in New York, this becomes my core subject, with all its contradictions and complexities. My practice is based on two main elements. On one end is my research and work based on language and words. I focus on moments of political trauma within the modern history of Iran. Here I take off from my discursive understanding of political science to be challenged by field-work research and collaborative collections of Oral History.

The resulting narratives and language-based works are then juxtaposed with my works on papers. These folds take their forms and flirt with my region’s history of art. They are the result of years and years of experimenting and exploring the history of Abstract Art in the Middle East. The black paper maps the movement of my hands. The forms come together through a labor intensive and physically demanding process. These abstract works play with and poke at systems, repetition, and material exhaustion.

Through the combination of the fragmented narratives and the interrupted forms of the folds, I aims to create a contemplative space for the viewers to reconsider the weight of this history.

In the following you are mainly presented with two recent bodies of work. To Fakhri Garakani  (2019) is based on a letter found in the archives of the Princeton University. Here, my maternal great-grandmother, Fakhri Garakani, writes to the president of the United States. It is 1961. Garakani is an artist based in Rasht, Iran. Alongside her cold letter, she is sending one of her elaborate works of embroidery. She writes in the hope of gaining international recognition. The art-work remains lost to this date, but Garakani’s letter and the following correspondences are housed and secured in Princeton’s library. While long for a generational conversation among us as two female artists, In To Fakhri Garakani, I present seven reading of Garakani’s initial letter, drawings that echo Garakani’s words in fragments. I meditate on the inner contradictions of her words. Her letter is in parts absurdly confident, in pieces painfully apologetic, it has many moments of errors. In bits it reveals her obsessive practice and in others show her assumptions regarding Western art. I hold on to the parallels between us. I surround the seven readings with my own works on paper. In the new body of folds—inspired by this imagined conversation—I focus on incomplete systems, ideal forms interrupted, and repetition meeting utter exhaustion. I hold on to multiplicity of perspectives and the movement of forms, words, bodies, and populations.

The second body of work presented here is As Dreams Became History (2018-2019). This project is a peak into one of Iran’s most heated decades, 1979 – 1989—beginning with the realization of the revolution and concluded with the end of the long-endured war with Iraq. As Dreams is an invitation through and through. It began with an online request spread among my same generation of post-1989 Iranians, now dispersed around the world. Rather than the usual yelling matches over facts, documents, social or historic analysis, this time I asked them to reach for something far more ephemeral.

I asked them to recall the decade that they had not seen, through memories that had never belonged to them; to unearth what had been inherited from others.

Once upon a time, our troubled history had to be turned into stories fit for the children that were soon to enter this new world. Now, as the revolution turns 40 and those kids enter their 30s, I have asked them to summon and conjure this decade in a constellation of childhood stories.

The result is a collection of 64 stories that reminiscence on the decade with all its contradiction. In turn I dedicate a fold for each of the stories. I repeat one pattern over and over again. The form is a blue-print to the iconic domes of the region. With these folds—holding the memory of the roof, the potentiality of home—I make an offering in the honor of each of the stories. The viewers are invited to engage with these memories individually or interact with them by resolve this history as a puzzle pieced together by the stories.

Today, as I write to you, the urgency and anxiety of the current political climate triggers my obsession with the past. I cling to the term “un-hinged” as I reflect on the history I have inherited, my Iran. As someone who is forever a foreigner to English, I can’t help but visualize the word:

“Un-hinged”; I see our history as a door: worn-out, kicked, broken, aged, and with its busted hinge. I imagine what lies on the inside: a room that holds all that I know—my past, my country, history, language, context, home, and all that can never be shared in translation. On the outside lies all the rest of the world. I imagine myself (alongside a whole generation of Iranians) stuck with an ever-repeated pilgrimage between the two. I can hear the creaking.

The few work I have presented to you, my visual practice as a whole, my long commitment to art writing, my dedication and activism through art-education, through and through, it is all an attempt to bring you in, even if only momentarily.

Or perhaps we can simply listen to the creaking, together.


MFA Visual Arts / 2018 / New York, USA — Columbia University
BFA Photography / 2015 / New York, USA — School of Visual Arts
BS Computer Science / 2011 / Tehran, Iran — University of Tehran

Selected Exhibitions
2019 “Yasi Alipour: As Dreams,” Hercules Art/Studio Program, New York, NY (Solo

Exhibition, Artist-Run Space)

“Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Had the Capacity to Destroy: Mare Nostrum,” Complesso della Chiesa di Sata Maria delle Penitenti, Venice Biennale, IT
“A Rain of Light and Death,” 17 Essex, New York, NY

2018 “Saout I’Mellah,” Limiditi-Temporary Art Project, La Cité Portugais, MR “Smiles Without Freedom,” LeRoy Neiman Center, New York, NY

“Site of unforgetting,” Practice, Yonkers, NY
“42/18,” LeRoy Neiman Gallery, New York, NY
“Summer Show,” Times Square Space, New York, NY
“Draw Serbia,” Museum of Contemporary Art Vijvodina, Vojvodina, SR “Thesis,” Wallach Art Gallery, New York, NY

2017 “Senses,” Art in Odd Places, New York, NY
“Visual Notes for an Upside-Down World,” PPOW, New York, NY

“Make _ Place,” New York Immigration Coalition, New York, NY “First Year Show,” Wallach Art Gallery, New York, NY
“We Love Decay,” Flat Iron Project Space, New York, NY

2016 “Light of Interior,” Art Therapy Project, Brooklyn, NY 2015 “SVA,” Miami Pulse Art Fair, Miami, FL
“Oneric Apparatus,”ATP, Brooklyn, NY

“Mentors,” SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY
“Intricacies of Being,” SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY “Wora,”A.Pop, Brooklyn, NY
“Either Way I’m Celebrating,”148 Stanton, New York, NY
“People Choice Salon Show,” The Greenpoint Gallery, Brooklyn,NY

2014 “Between Two Thoughts,” SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY “Pantoum,” SVA BFA Photography, New York, NY

2013 “Photography in Southern France,” SVA, New York, NY
2012 “Rêves De Provence,” Maison de Sante Saint-Paul, Provence, France

Awards and Residencies
2019 Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program Award, 2019-2020 2018 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Nominee

Triple Canopy Publication Intensive 2017 Mildred’s Lane

2016 Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts
Interdisciplinary Artist Residency and Grant, Nebraska City, NE

2015 SVA, Mentors Program: Dr. Maryam Ekhtiar, Associate Curator, Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

2019 Volume One / Triple Canopy

“A Brief List of Premises by an Artist Stuck with Paper, Politics, and Performance”, February 2019
The Brooklyn Rail
“In Conversation: Jane Benson with Yasi Alipour”, May 2019

“In Conversation: Kevin Beasley with Yasaman Alipour”, February 2019 2018 “Ivan Forde: Dense Lightness”, December 2018/January 2019

“Hiwa K: Blind as the Mother Tongue”, November 2018 “Please Touch: Body Boundaries”, September 2018 “Makan Ashgvari: To Trucks” May 2018

2017 Asia Contemporary Art Week, Arte East

“New Media Society” 2017
The Brooklyn Rail
“Marinella Senatore: Piazza Universale/Social Stages” July 2017
“Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms” May 2017 2016 The Brooklyn Rail
“Phil Collins: How to make a Refugee” September 2016
“But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa” July/August 2016
“Shimone Attie: Facts on the Ground” June 2016
“Nicky Nodjoumi: You and Me” April 2016
“I Am a Lie and I am Gold” March 2016
The Photograph Magazine
“Kamolpan Chotvicha,” July/August 2016
“Ann Parker” May/June 2016
“Gus Powell” Mar/Apr 2016
“Walid Raad” January/February 2016, Page 62

2015 The Brooklyn Rail
“Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography/Early Soviet Film” December 2015/January 2016
“Adam Fuss λόγος” November 2015, Page 45
“Letter from Tehran” October 2015, Page 52-53
“Shirin Neshat, Facing History” September 2015, Page 70
“Wael Shawky, Cabaret Crusades” July/August 2015
“Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Infinite Possibilities” May 2015, Page 90
“To All the Pomegranates We Lost Along the Way” April 2015
“Nicoló Degiorgis, Hidden Islam” March 2015, Page 101
The Dear Dave
“Hidden Islam,” Summer/Fall 2015, Page 46-49

2014 Come Together: Surviving Sandy
“Self Portrait (Pink T-shirt): Roy, Chuck Close”


Work Experience Faculty
SVA / September 2018 –

A) “Junior Seminar”, BFA Photography and Video, SVA / Sep 2018 –
B) “The New Hegemonic: Exploration of Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality in America,” BFA

Photography and Video, SVA / Sep 2018 – Director of Advertising

The Brooklyn Rail / July 2018 –

Fellow, LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies

Columbia University / Jan 2017 – May 2018

Service Position, Visual Arts Office

Columbia University / Sep 2016 –

Fellow, Visual Arts Office

Columbia University / Jan 2017 – Dec 2017

Digital Art Director

The Brooklyn Rail / Feb 2016 – July 2016

Teaching Assistance
A) “Sculpture 1” K. Olujimi, Visual Arts, Columbia University / Sep 2017 – Dec 2017
B) “Beginning Video” S. Silver, Visual Arts, Columbia University / Jan 2017 – Apr 2017
C) “Abstract Photography” E. Matczack, BFA Photography, SVA / Jan 2016 – Apr 2016
D) “Critical Eye” L. Rexer, BFA Photography, SVA / Sep 2015 – Dec 2015
E) “Logic” Dr. Alizadeh, Dep. of Mathematics, University of Tehran / Jan 2009 – May 2010

Operations Coordinator
SVA Gallery / Oct 2015 – Feb 2016

Assistant Editor
inTranslation / Sep 2015 – present

Research Assistant
“Beyond the Edge,” “The Critical Eye: Fifteen Pictures” by L. Rexer / Jan 2015 – Apr 2016

Production Assistant
The Brooklyn Rail / May 2014 – Feb 2016