Nicky Nodjoumi

“Underlying all of Nodjoumi’s artworks are fundamental social concerns—the struggle for justice, a resistance to political repression, and an insistence on human dignity.”

 

 - Shiva Balaghi, PhD (Cultural Historian)

Iranian-born American artist, Nicky Nodjoumi (b. 1942, Kermanshah, Iran), is celebrated for his large scale, figurative and politically-charged paintings and drawings, which consistently test the boundaries between creative and political expression. 

 

Nodjoumi earned a Bachelor’s degree in art from Tehran University of Fine Arts before relocating to the United States in the late 1960s, where he received his Master’s degree in Fine Arts from The City College of New York in 1974. Returning to Tehran to join the faculty of his alma mater, Nodjoumi joined his politically galvanized students in their criticism of the Shah’s regime, designing political posters inspired by the revolutionary spirit sweeping the country. This ultimately resulted in his exile from Iran in 1979 in the aftermath of the revolution.

 

Political activism continues to saturate Nodjoumi’s creative expression today. He layers his personal heritage and lived experiences in Iran and the United States into scenes that allude to collective experiences underpinned by socio-political struggles, and which resonate beyond specific historical contexts or geographical boundaries. 

 

Serious in subject matter and witty in execution, Nodjoumi’s paintings and works on paper experiment with colour, composition, and form to evoke narrative and drama, topped off with a light satirical touch. Utilising diverse Eastern and Western art historical references in his work - from Persian illuminated manuscripts to Picasso - Nodjoumi’s compositions are conceived as stages upon which anonymous besuited men or nude figures balance precariously on in the foreground, frozen mid-action, wrestling with one another, kneeling on the ground, or with arms outstretched and hands open in impassioned gesture. Flora and fauna also feature, at times abstracted in both scale and placement, standing it as mysterious metaphors for irony, morality, and history old and new. The protagonists come across as both serious and ridiculous, articulating the full spectrum of feelings provoked by socio-political turmoil, from aggression to victimhood. 

 

Drama pervades Nodjoumi’s work, both in subject matter and execution. Smudged, thick gestural brushstrokes, or wet flecks of ink spray add surface drama to the compositions, as if drawn quickly and spontaneously from live events unfolding before him. In particular, Nodjoumi’s ink and newspaper drawings exude a sense of frenzied immediacy, of instinctual creative expression in response to the news of the day. 

 

Nicky Nodjoumi lives and works in Brooklyn. Having exhibited internationally since 1968, numerous artworks now reside in prominent institutional collections including: the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the British Museum (London), LACMA (Los Angeles), Guggenheim (Abu Dhabi), and the Nelson-Atkins Museum (Kansas City), and most recently the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington DC). In 2020, The New York Times Magazine counted Nodjoumi amongst the 25 most influential works of American protest art since WWII. 

 

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SELECTED Press

 

The Guardian, 2021

Artsy, 2021

Arab News, 2021

The Telegraph, 2021

The New York Times, 2020

Boston Review, 2020

The New Yorker, 2020

The New York Times, 2020

Harpers Bazaar Arabia, 2018

The National News, 2018

The Brooklyn Rail, 2016

The New York Times, 2013

Huffington Post, 2013

Brooklyn Rail, 2010