The art historian's latest book tells of the evolution of Kamran Khavarani's art from the time of his Iranian exile to the present day.
Albert Boime, a professor of art history at UCLA for 30 years, has written 25 books and more than 100 articles focusing mainly on 19th-century European art. But approximately five years ago, Boime discovered the work of Kamran Khavarani, an artist who draws much of his inspiration from the love poems of 13th-century Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi. Realizing that he had never seen such art before, Boime teamed with artist Roshan Hubbard to give the new genre a name: "abstract romanticism." Boime’s latest book, "The Birth of Abstract Romanticism: Art for a New Humanity" (Sybil City Book Company, 2008), tells the story of the evolution of Khavarani's art from the time of his Iranian exile to the present day.
By Wendy Soderburg
Romanticism has many meanings for many different people. For me, it is an attempt on the part of artists to bring about some kind of substantial change — to bring a sense of inspiration to altering people’s present vision of the world.
Well, that's another term that has many meanings. As you look at [Khavarani's] work, you'll see that it’s not entirely complete. And yet, at the same time, there's a core element of something there that you can touch and believe in. So many of his paintings show classic conditions: ocean, sky, volcanic eruption. And yet, you can say that the abstract reaches a point where it's absolutely clear about what's being shown.
Actually, it was pretty mundane. We had mutual friends. Kamran was having a show right here on Glendon [in Westwood Village], so it was very convenient. He said to come over — I did, and I fell in love with the work.
This is unique in my own personal production — sticking to one artist. I took it as kind of a challenge to write that way, especially dealing with a single artist in a contemporary context. I think Kamran was the perfect choice. For one thing, there's his attempt to interpret the work of the Persian poet, Rumi.
I had never heard of Rumi before I met him! And now I have a pretty good familiarity with Rumi's work.
Kamran attended a class on Rumi, taught by a very important teacher in town, Amir Shahparaki. I interviewed Shahparaki and did a lot of thinking about him. One thing he told me was to disassociate Rumi from certain sectarian ways of thinking. For example, Rumi is associated with Sufism, which is a mystical side of Islam. Rumi is much more broadly based in his way of looking at life and advising others. It’s an important component of his thinking that he tries to make people think and know that they have a godlike power at their fingertips.
Every Persian has to be aware of Rumi's role, and I think Kamran always had that awareness, even though some of his works precede his discovery of Rumi. Rumi was like a part of the national patrimony, the cultural patrimony.
What I was concerned with was whether or not I could find a way of thinking more broadly of the many meanings that Rumi brings to bear on existence. In the past, I’ve often worked on 19th-century European art. But to me, it was very important that I do something that looked from another perspective at historical and cultural events.
I think there are some that probably come close, but Kamran right now is a one-person movement.
A shaper of human consciousness.
For more on Albert Boime, visit his website.
Published: Wednesday, October 15, 2008
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