Amir H. Fallah Feels the Pull of His Iranian Origins
Mr. Fallah was 4 when he left Iran after its revolution. Now, he’s using his art to support the recent uprising there.
Amir H. Fallah’s painting, “I Want To Live, To Cry, To Survive, To Love, To Die.” It is one of the works he is showing at Art Basel Hong Kong.Credit…The artist and Denny Gallery
Amir H. Fallah was born in Iran in 1979, the year that a revolution overthrew the country’s monarchy and replaced it with an Islamic republic. He left with his family when he was 4, and they eventually settled in the United States.
Now a contemporary artist based in Los Angeles, Mr. Fallah makes richly ornamental works that merge his two worlds. They combine the themes and patterns found in Persian myths, miniatures, and carpets with motifs from Western pop culture, cartoons and graphics.
Mr. Fallah has had a busy few months. His most recent solo museum exhibition runs through May 14 at the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, which Mr. Fallah attended.
In February, he presented an outdoor artwork in Los Angeles inspired by what he described as a second Iranian revolution: the uprising sparked in September by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, while in the custody of the morality police. She had been arrested on the grounds that she was not observing Iran’s mandatory hijab law. Titled “Chant,” it’s a neon sun with the features of a woman and the uprising’s slogan, “Woman, Life, Freedom,” beamed around it in English, Farsi, and phonetically spelled Farsi.
At Art Basel Hong Kong, Mr. Fallah is taking over the booth of the Denny Gallery, a first-time exhibitor, with five paintings. The centerpiece is a monumental work that depicts the battle between good and evil. It shows an amorous couple and cartoon characters, with dragons, menacing demons, and veiled figures.
In a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles, Mr. Fallah spoke about the Hong Kong work, his life and trajectory, and the uprising in Iran.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.
Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times
What inspired the monumental work you created for Art Basel Hong Kong?
All of my work comes out of issues dealing with immigration, being a refugee, and living in a hybrid culture. But once I started watching the protests in Iran, I really felt compelled to make a body of work that addressed them more specifically. It was just something that was top of mind. So, I shifted gears.
The work is open enough to talk about the broader themes of the struggle for democracy and basic human rights as a whole, because I don’t think this issue is isolated to Iran. Hong Kong certainly has had its own bouts of protests and issues around democracy. Democracy is getting attacked no matter where you are, and as humans, we have to constantly be vigilant.