20 х 24 in. (50.8 x 60.96 cm.)
“Rapture Series (Men with Cannons, close up)” (1999) presents an excellent example from one of the most sought after series by artist Shirin Neshat. As with her subsequent works, the “Rapture” series captures the social and cultural complexities of Islamic culture, focusing on gender and it’s psychological and political implications. Filmed and photographed in Essaouira, Morocco, and involving approximately 250 extras, the “Rapture” project examines the roles of men and women within contemporary Islamic society by formally separating them into two in both the film installation, where two screens opposite one another present female and male subjects separately, and the photographs, where each elaborately staged photo is populated entirely by one gender). In “Rapture Series (Men with Cannons, close up)” we see the males occupying a landscape of architecture and weaponry- formally geometric, highly organized, and authoritarian- while the images depicting women are often composed within natural, organic environments such as the sea and the desert, arranged in gestural, flowing compositions. In “Rapture Series (Men with Cannons, close up)”, the stone fortress appears to be built out of the sand itself, with the men occupying it embodying the traditional Iranian society, fortified by stone and canons.
The “Rapture” series of photographs marks Neshat’s first embrace of pure photography, where she omits her previous use of hand-drawn Farsi calligraphy. Rather than being simply film or production stills, the photos composing the series have a conceptual power in their dramatic use of color, composition, and scale. By limiting her color range to Azure (the sky), black (the canons, the women’s chador), gold (the fortress, the sand) and white (men’s shirts), Neshat formally reduces her subjects to naturally occurring elements within an epic, open stage. Photographs from the rapture series represent Neshat’s most celebrated and sought after works, with examples from the series of 12 in many prestigious museums and public collections throughout the world, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY); the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL); the Pompidou Center (Paris, France); the Broad Art Foundation (Los Angeles, CA), and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Tel Aviv, Israel).
Iranian video and installation artist Shirin Neshat (1957) explores the political and social conditions of Iranian and Muslim life in her works, particularly focusing on women and feminist issues. Neshat was born in Qazvin, Iran, and left the country to study art in the United States at seventeen; she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with an M.F.A. in 1982. When she returned to her country in 1990 she found it barely recognizable from the Iran before the 1979 Revolution, a shocking experience that incited meditations on memory, loss, and contemporary life in Iran that are central to her work. Her “Women of Allah” series, created in the mid-1990s, introduced the hallmark themes of her pieces through which she examines conditions of male, female, public, private, religious, political, and secular identities in both Iranian and Western cultures. Her videos, installations, and photographs have received great critical acclaim outside of Iran. Her work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Istanbul and Johannesburg Biennials, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Tate Gallery in London, among other institutions. Neshat currently lives and works in New York. Her works can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); the Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY); the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY); the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Art (Oslo, Norway); the Hamburger Banhof (Berlin, Germany), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL), the Tate Modern (London, England); and the Reina Sofia National Museum (Madrid, Spain); among many others.