Siah Armajani (Tehran, 1939) is one of the leading representatives of Public Art, which arises in the early seventies as a final attempt to overcome the utopias of the interwar avant-garde on the integration of Art and Design. The artist himself theoretically contributes to this with his manifesto, Public Sculpture in the context of American democracy (1968-1978 and revised in 1993), His work gives proposals and actions which fuse aspects, resources and solutions from different fields such as architecture, town planning, engineering and carpentry. The common theme in all his projects is construction and the search for a real convergence between function and communication.
The exhibition consists of thirty-five models and several pieces of furniture designed for parks and gardens. The models correspond to two of his major series: Dictionary for Building (1974-1975) and Street Corners (1992-1996), which are joined by other pieces in The Art of Bridge-making (1987-1989). The collection illustrates the thoughtful character and poetic sense of the artist's work and shows the experimental nature, high metaphorical content and symbolism of his work.
Armajani argues that artistic creation is more than just a vehicle for personal expression and considers public art as civic art. He aims for and insists on the use of sculpture for the service of urban experience, like a sculpture embedded in community life, while stressing its social function and anti-monumental character.
The art critic Nancy Princethal notes that Armajani’s work and artistic conscious are "deeply inspired by the democratic ideals of early American thinkers like Jefferson and Paine", not to mention the theoretical work of John Dewey, especially his series of lectures Art as Experience from 1931. In all these cases, Armajani bases his belief in self-determination and mutual responsibility. The artist defines public art as that which "is not about the myth of the artist, but their civic sense". He questions the consideration of the artist’s role and wants "the artist to become a citizen once again."
In the gathered works we can see Armajani’s preference for elements of union and communication (bridges, doors, windows, stairs, walkways) and for public meeting places, such as reading rooms, tables and benches or gazebos, as can be seen in Dictionary for Building: Loading Dock (1974-1975) and Model for Gazebo for Two Anarchists for: Emilio Corda and Richard Herny Dana (1991). It is worth mentioning that the exhibition presents a model for a work commissioned by the Department of Art and Nature from the Huesca Council: Picnic Table (1999). This work is an example of a space for social commitment between poetry and image, in this case related to Federico Garcia Lorca. Its function is based on its restricted sculptural language, arising from an abstract core vocabulary, which he formulates in the series Dictionary for Building.
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