Ali Banisadr

Ali Banisadr narrates stories of our time with epic, densely textured canvases that blend abstraction and figuration.

The Iranian-born American artist’s compositions have a mythic, at times hellish, scale and atmosphere — drawing comparisons to the epic poems of Dante’s Inferno and paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. The lower sections of his paintings are often incredibly dense, with crowds of people emerging from underneath wide, sweeping brush strokes. Higher up, they disperse into wispy abstraction  — evoking spiritual transcendence and religious notions of afterlife.

  • These Specks of Dust, solo show at Kasmin Gallery, New York, 2021
  • Beautiful Lies, solo show at Museo Stefano Bardini and Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, 2021
  • Epic Iran, group show at Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2021
  • Ali Banisadr / Matrix 185, solo show at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Connecticut, 2020
  • Ultramarinus: Beyond The Sea, solo show at Benaki Museum, Athens, 2020
  • Ordered Disorders, solo show at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, 2019
  • Work in collections including Albright Knox Art Gallety, NY; The British Museum; Centre Georges Pompidou; Francois Pinault Foundation; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
It's in the Air by Ali Banisadr
It’s in the Air, Ali Banisadr, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Banisadr harnesses the atmospheric and emotional powers of a wide spectrum of colouration, constructed by carefully mixing oil paints and at times by creating pigments of his own. Texture is built using unexpected tools, for example a metal sponge which scratches into the paint’s surface. Banisadr also works on paper with both drawing and intaglio printmaking techniques using a variety of materials including ink and charcoal. Elements of Modern movements such as Cubism, Futurism and Abstract Expressionism are all present in his practice, along with religious iconography and ancient art forms such as Persian miniature painting.

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Through painting, Banisadr intuitively expresses his own personal experiences. Born in Tehran in 1976, the artist grew up during the Islamic Revolution and fled the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, re-settling in California and eventually New York. Banisadr uses his canvas as a visual remembrance of his own experiences, as well as an exploration of our collective memories and imaginations.

“Words are limiting. Visual philosophy is how I deal with questions in life.”

Sound also plays an important role in this process, particularly his experience of synesthesia, where sounds manifest as images in his mind. The rhythmic brush strokes channel a wealth of experiences, from the peaceful tune of birdsong to the piercing clamour of falling bombs breaking windows. In Banisadr’s own words, “I build up layers almost like a musical composition.”

Red, Ali Banisadr, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Kasmin Gallery, New York.
The Prophet Ali B
The Prophet, Ali Banisadr, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Kasmin Gallery, New York.

Contemporary socio-political events are also addressed in Banisadr’s work. In paintings such as Only Breath (2020) and Red (2020), he references the death of George Floyd and the BLM movement at large, while in The Prophet (2020) people in face masks speak to our collective experience of a global pandemic. Additionally, the figures often combine elements of human, animal and robot — commenting on the digitisation of today’s world.

In this sense, Banisadr creates his own contemporary form of history painting, memorialising and honouring the injustices of the world and embodying collective histories in his compositions. Through kinetic mark making and thoughtful storytelling, Banisadr forces the viewer to look more carefully — not just at painting, but at life.

Only Breath by Ali Banisadr
Only Breath, Ali Banisadr, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Kasmin Gallery, New York.
“My paintings are based on three things: the history of myself, the history of our century, and the history of art.”

All artworks courtesy of the artist.
Studio shoot by James Chororos.

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© James Chororos_Avant Arte_Alib_16
© James Chororos_Avant Arte_Alib_10

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Ali Banisadr Portrait