The Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center present the most comprehensive exhibition of the work of Abbas Kiarostami ever organized in the United States. Abbas Kiarostami: Image Maker, a three-part exhibition of film, photography, and installations, on view from March 1–May 28, 2007 at MoMA, and February 11–April 29, 2007 at P.S.1, includes a retrospective of 33 short and feature-length films, along with new photography and media works being exhibited for the first time. Kiarostami is one of the world's most critically acclaimed directors and has been largely responsible for the high profile of Iranian cinema in the past decade. The director will introduce the opening night film, Ta´am-e gilas (Taste of Cherry, 1997), on March 1 at MoMA. Abbas Kiarostami: Image Maker is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator, Department of Media, The Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Chief Curatorial Advisor, in collaboration with The Iranian Art Foundation.
This exhibition presents different aspects of the artist's career. The film series, presented March 1–19 in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, comprises all of the director's most celebrated works, many in newly struck prints acquired for the Museum's permanent collection, such as Where Is the Friend's House? (1987); And Life Goes On.../Life and Nothing More... (1991); Through the Olive Trees (1994); Taste of Cherry (1997), which won the Golden Palm at Cannes that year; The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), winner of the Grand Special Jury Prize at Venice; and Ten (2002). Several of Kiarostami's early films, seldom screened in North America, are included, such as his first film, Nan va koutcheh (Bread and Alley, 1970), and his debut feature film, Mossafer (The Traveller, 1974), as well as most of the other films he made while at Kanoon, The Institute for the Development of Children and Young Adults, in Tehran, Iran.
The video installation Five (2006), which is presented March 1-May 28 in MoMA's Yoshiko and Akio Morita Gallery, comprises separate projections of each of the five parts of the artist's 2004 feature Five, in which five scenes, filmed by a static camera, play out in front of a beach overlooking the Caspian Sea.
Concurrent with his international acclaim as a filmmaker, Kiarostami has seriously pursued his passion for photography since the 1980s. The photographic works on view at P.S.1 through April 29 are from four different series. The seven color prints in the series Rain (2006) were taken by the artist through the windshield of his vehicle, with everything but the raindrops on his windshield in focus. Kiarostami has described his car as his "best friend," for its function as his office, a comfortable space, and a location for contemplation. In the 17 color photographs in Trees and Crows, the linearity and serenity of compositions of trees in various settings is interrupted by the appearance of birds. Both of these series are being exhibited for the first time.
The 19 black-and-white photographs in the series Roads and Trees and Snow White (both 1978-2003) are mostly landscape shots for which the artist has already received widespread acclaim. Also at P.S.1, the video installation Summer Afternoon (2006) is an interior scene that depicts shadows dancing against a curtained window. The breeze from a fan positioned behind the viewer adds another experiential dimension, as if the viewer is actually standing at the window itself.
Abbas Kiarostami (b. 1940, Iran), is the most important filmmaker to have emerged from post-revolutionary Iran, having been one of the leading directors in the Iranian "New Wave" of the late 1960s and early 1970s. After graduating from Tehran University's Faculty of Fine Arts, Kiarostami worked variously as a traffic policeman, painter, graphic designer, and book illustrator, before beginning a film career by designing credit titles and then directing commercials. He established the film department of the non-profit organization Kanoon and directed his first film, Bread and Alley, there, one of a number of educational films he made while at the institute.
As part of the Iranian New Wave, Kiarostami and his colleagues drew on the neorealism of filmmakers such as Roberto Rossellini, with social, observational fiction dramas the hallmark of the movement. Since the 1980s, these directors and their films have received wider exposure and acclaim from the international critical community, with Kiarostami garnering major awards at Cannes and Venice film festivals.
A sense of minimalism permeates all of Kiarostami's work, both visual and written (he is a published poet). Besides exhibiting a poetic quality, Kiarostami's cinema is one of questions and questioning; his films are almost always initiated as a question or a quest that develops, as his films' characters evolve, into much larger ethical and philosophical inquiries. This characteristic is present from the early shorts and features of didactic origins—many screened here as United States premieres—and it continues through such later works as Zendegi va digar hich (And Life Goes On.../Life and Nothing More...), where such lyricism supports—both overtly and obliquely—the basic humanism that illuminates all of the director's oeuvre.
Thematically, Kiarostami's films feature the conflicts between modernity and tradition, urbanism and rural life, and, since the catastrophic earthquake that decimated parts of northern Iran in 1990, life and death. His oeuvre is distinguished as much by its ethical and philosophical core as by its visual simplicity and its focus on the humanity of ordinary people. The characters in his films engage in an endless interrogation—of each other, of themselves, and of the director.
Stylistically and technically, Kiarostami has moved away from shooting on film in recent years and has embraced digital video—primarily for the intimacy and immediacy that it allows him to have with his actors or, as in the case with ABC Africa (2001), with his documentary subjects. Using mostly nonprofessional actors and, by his own admission, incomplete scripts when he commences shooting, the director often finds his own films a voyage of discovery. He uses an economical film grammar that includes long takes, a small cast and crew, and an absence of flamboyance in camera movement.
About the Curators
Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, has been with the Museum since 1984. At MoMA she has organized annual programs such as Premiere Brazil! and Global Lens, as well as Prix Jean Vigo (2006), a yearlong celebration of French film, and Bright Stars, Big City: Chinese Cinema's First Golden Era, 1922-1937 (2005). She is a member of the selection committee for New Directors/New Films. Her publications include: Benjamin Christensen: An International Dane (1999), "Four Decades of Brazilian Cinema" in Cinema Novo and Beyond (1998), and monographs on Carl Th. Dreyer (1994) and Bela Tarr (2001), as well as interviews and articles for newspapers in the United States and abroad.
Klaus Biesenbach is Chief Curator, Department of Media, The Museum of Modern Art, and Chief Curatorial Advisor at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. At MoMA he organized Douglas Gordon: Timeline (2006) and co-organized Doug Aitken: Sleepwalkers (2007). In 2005 he co-organized New Works/New Acquisitions with Ann Temkin, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, and collaborated with Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, on Take Two. Worlds and Views: Contemporary Art from the Collection. He is the founding director of KW (Kunst-Werke) Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin; was a member of the international jury of the 1997 Venice Biennale; co-organized the "hybrid workspace" of Documenta 10 in Kassel (1997); directed the Berlin Biennale in 1998, and co-curated the Shanghai Biennale in 2002. At P.S.1 he organized Into Me/Out of Me (2006) and co-curated the Greater New York exhibitions in 2000 and 2005. Mr. Biesenbach also organized the P.S.1 presentation of Roth Time: A Dieter Roth Retrospective, at MoMA QNS and P.S.1 in 2004.