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Ardeshir Mohassess

ARDESHIR MOHASSESS (1938, b. Rasht, d. 2008 New York) was a political satirist, illustrator, cartoonist and painter, notorious for his humour and fearless criticism of dictatorship. His drawings focused on oppression, portraying both the oppressor and the oppressed as the Poet Esmail Khoi once mentioned.1 Most importantly, Ardeshir saw himself as a reporter. Therefore, his work constitutes an archive of twentieth-century Iran and contains the historical memories of two monarchies he has survived, The Pahlavi and The Islamic Republic. 

Ardeshir was the youngest child of Abbas-Qoli and Sorur Mahkama Mohassess. His father was a judge and died when Ardeshir was a child. His mother was the principal of the first school for girls in Rasht, an educator, poet and literary figure in Ardeshirs’ life that helped enrich his imagination with her constant supply of funny stories. 

Ardeshir studied historical photography and lithographs specifically from the Qajar era, classical manuscripts, and coffeehouse painting from the Shi’i folkloric tradition, combined with the present sense of Buster Keaton’s films, Samuel Beckett’s plays and Goya’s painting that influenced the driven force in his works. His technique was established within an enormous knowledge about the Iranian cultural ethos while applying universal themes.

He started his career as a cartoonist for Kayhan, the daily Tehran-based newspaper, where he played a crucial role in the evolution of satirical cartoons in Iran. His first solo exhibition took place at Qandriz Gallery in 1967 that contributed toward him winning the Praise of Karim Emami as “Iran’s most eminent caricaturist” (Emami, 1967, p. 9). Also, his work was displayed in the first Tehran Biennale in 1958 and a group show at the Musée du Louvre in 1974. 

In 1977, Ardeshir moved to New York City. In New York, his work would be published in The New York Times, The National, Playboy, The Village Voice and elsewhere. The years between 1978 and 1980 marked a massive change in his artistic style and are known as his most productive period. 

The climax of his technique progressed at the time that he was a stranger to the art community in New York, which he depicted the issue of human rights violation and the loss of social rights by the revolutionary government in Iran. His work became more fluid stylistically due to a mixture of influences including, his illness and his extermination with colour, collage and abstract elements. 

Throughout his career that lasted nearly five decades, his line drawings depicted the heavy burden of the contest for power on the lives of Iranians. He remained humble in describing his impact: “One can never change anything by art. The only thing that one can say is that artists in each period of history leave a record so that the people in the future will know about their time” (Ardeshir Mohassess). Despite dealing with Parkinson’s disease and physical limitations, he worked endlessly. Even in the hospital, while having his right hand wounded, he started drawing with his left hand. He was never married and had no children. He had a heart attack on October ninth, 2008, in his home in New York City and was deceased. He was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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Exhibitions
  • 1967Solo show, Qandriz Gallery, Tehran

  • 1969Solo show, Seyhoun Gallery, Tehran

  • 1970Group show, The American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York

  • 1971Group show, Musee des Arts, Paris

  • 1971Solo show, Sayhoun Gallery, Tehran

  • 1971Solo show, Municipal Club, Tehran

  • 1972Solo show, Iran-America Society Cultural Centre, Tehran

  • 1973Group show, "Drawings from the New York Times", Musée des Beaux Arts, Bordeaux, France

  • 1974Group show, "Drawings from The New York Times", Louvre Museum, Paris

  • 1974Solo show, Columbia University, New York

  • 1975Solo show, Litho Gallery, Tehran

  • 1975Solo show, Graham Gallery, New York

  • 1976Group show, "Modern Iranian Arts", Iran-America Society, Tehran

  • 1976Solo show, Zand Gallery, Tehran

  • 1977Solo show, Graham Gallery, New York

  • 1977Group show, Hayden Zand Gallery, Washington, D.C.

  • 1978Solo show, Zand Gallery, Tehran

  • 1980Group show, "Politics and Arts: Ten Years of Graphic Commentary", The American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York

  • 1983Solo show, "Ardeshir's Drawings", Studio 369, Boston

  • 1986Solo show, Persian Arts Foundation, Los Angeles

  • 1993Solo show, "Open Secret", Westbeth Gallery, New York

  • 2006Solo show, "After 3 Decades", Homa Art Gallery, Tehran

  • 2007Solo show, "Ardeshir Retrospective", Asia Society, New York

  • 2007Solo show, "Ardeshirestan", Homa Art Gallery, Tehran

  • 2008Solo show, "Ardeshir Mohassess: Art and Satire in Iran", Asia Society Museum, New York

  • 2013Group show, "Iran Modern", Asia Society Museum, New York

  • 2014Group show, "The Feeling of Happiness", Homa Gallery, Tehran

  • 2015Solo show, "A Tribute to Ardeshir Mohassess", Dastan Art Gallery, Tehran

  • 2016Solo show, "Ardeshir: Stormy Weather", Dastan +2 Gallery, Tehran

  • 2018Group show, "Amordad", Afrand Gallery, Tehran

  • 2018Group show, "In the Fields of Empty Days", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

  • 2018Group show, "The Oil of Pardis", Balice Hertling, Paris

  • 2018Group show, "96+", Afrand Gallery, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, "2018 Collection Selling", Haan Gallery, Shiraz

  • 2019Group show, "Collectionner", Artibition, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, "3rd Anniversary Of Negar Art Gallery", Negar Gallery, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, Hoor Gallery, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, "300-3 Million", Negar Gallery, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, "Selected by", Emkan Gallery, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, "Printed Famous works by Foad Sharifi", Haan Gallery, Shiraz

  • 2019Group show, "10 - 20 - 30", Azad Art Gallery, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, "Negar Masterpieces", Negar Gallery, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, "Encircle the Apple, Or Shadowlessness", Emrooz Gallery, Isfahan

  • 2019Group show, "Encircle the Apple or Shadowlessness", Dastan Outside Projects, Tehran

  • 2019Group show, "Dance Dance Dance", Bermondsey Project Space, London

  • 2019Group show, "Painting and Sculpture Show", Sarv-E Naz Gallery, Shiraz

  • 2020Group show, "Connoisseur's Look", Negar Gallery, Tehran

  • 2021Group show, "Perspective: The Painter", Inja-Gallery, Tehran

  • 2021Group show, "My Very Favourite Things", The Lodge, Los Angeles

  • 2021Solo show, "A Very Rare Chance to View Ardeshir Mohasses Masterful Drawings", Sahar K.Boluki Fine Art Gallery, Toronto

bibliography
  • Cactus, a special issue of Daftarha-ye Zamaneh, with an introduction by Karim Emami, including drawings from 1961 to 1966, Tehran 1971.

  • With Ardeshir Mohassess and his Puppets, with an introduction by Ali Asghar Haj-Seyed-Javadi, including drawings from 1967 to 1971, Tous Publications, Tehran, 1971.

  • Current Events, with an introduction by Ahmad Shamlou, a selection of drawings from 1971, Amir Kabir Publications, Tehran, 1973.

  • Momenten, a selection of drawings from 1968 to 1972, edited by K. Farrokhi, Sun PublicationsHaarlem, the Netherlands, 1973.

  • Identity Card, a selection of drawings done in 1972, Tahouri Publications, Tehran, 1973.

  • Ceremonies, an Introduction by Aydin Aghdashloo, a selection of drawings from 1972, Fine Arts Publications (under the auspices of Gallery Ayeh), Tehran, 1973.

  • Jahan-e No, a special issue of drawings, including drawings done in 1972, Tehran, 1973.

  • Ardeshir and Stormy Winds, with an introduction by Ali Asghar Haj-Seyed-Javadi, including drawings from 1967 to 1973, Tous Publications, Tehran, 1973.

  • Ardeshir Mohassess: Art and Satire in Iran, Asia Society, 2008