Shoja Azari, filmmaker, and Shahram Karimi, painter, first collaborated in 2006. Their collaboration exploits the tension between the two media, emphasizing how one medium can, at times, overpower the other, how the two media can coexist in harmony, or even how incorporating a second medium can either bring to life a static image or enhance the visual quality of film. One of their coauthored works, their “Silence” series, uses abstract films of natural environments over hyperrealistic paintings depicting the same scenes. Azari and Karimi worked together on installations outside their co-authored works, including Blazing Grace, which addresses the Gulf War and alludes to hell and purgatory. In it, Azari reframes scenes from Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness and Karimi showcases hyperrealistic, cinematic paintings of vibrant fires, soldiers, and military tanks.
Azari’s film career began in Shiraz, Iran, where he experimented with short films as a teenager, and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution involved himself in underground culture – literature, theater, and politics. After moving to New York in 1983, he received a Master’s degree in Psychology from New York University.
In his work, Azari confronts broad themes of gender, politics and piety, drawing inspiration from and re-interpreting religious icons. Azari’s work has been exhibited globally, with solo shows throughout Europe and North America; his first solo show was at Leila Heller Gallery in 2010. Azari has participated in exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, at museums such as Germany’s Haus der Kulturen and the MUSAC in Spain, and at art fairs including Art Basel, Switzerland, ARCO, Spain, and Art Dubai. His works are in the permanent collections of various museums and foundations, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in the United States, and the Farjam Collection in the UAE. He lives and works in New York.
Karimi too grew up in Shiraz, Iran. His paintings focus on the dilemma of the contemporary, bicultural Iranian attempting to reconcile the personal past with the contemporary present. Each of Karimi’s painting offers a piece of his memories, his personal past, and the national past. Karimi lives and works in Germany and the United States.