Urban Iran: A Rare Look at Iran’s Street Art Scene
By Maria Popova
Last week’s Arabic Graffiti is already one of the most-liked books we’ve featured this year. And though an important non-Western voice in the global conversation on street art, it isn’t the only one. In 2008, indie powerhouse Mark Batty Publisher released the excellent Urban Iran — a gripping, visually stunning anthology by photographers Karan Rashid and Sina Araghi exploring the rich spectrum of street art across Iran’s cities and countryside. Alongside the lavish visual spreads are illuminating essays that examine the artwork in a sociopolitical context, bridging this faceted visual landscape with the cultural undercurrents that power it.
What makes the project particularly intriguing is that it came mere months before the 2009 Iranian uprisings, but the content and context of the street art themes featured in the book — censorship, rebellion, political disillusionment, a yearning for justice and democracy — presage what was to come.
Reshad embodies urban Iran, celebrating it and criticizing it simultaneously, and that seems to be the essence of the country today. Of course, there is nothing new about such a relationship, but that’s the ultimate point. Iranians are not just some aggregate, its purpose to serve as nothing more than media headlines and statistics for government reports. They are individuals, struggling and enjoying life the best they can, the same as the rest of us.”
Lavish and thoughtful, Urban Iran is the kind of gem that restores your faith in the art of books and the role of editors as curators of the meaningful, as amplifiers of voices that matter, as bastions of cultural aspiration.
Published May 5, 2011