Ranked #1 in Flash Art’s Top 100 Artists of 2011, Ali Banisadr is a 36-year-old artist whose painting Interrogation is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Organized by Maryam Ekhtiar, the Met’s Associate Curator of Islamic Art, “Contemporary Iranian Art from the Permanent Collection” (March 3 – September 3, 2012) includes art by three generations of artists of Iranian descent and is in the Kevorkian Special Exhibitions gallery nestled among the just-renovated Islamic Wing of the Met. For many visitors, the exhibition is a wonderful surprise, a rare chance to see the discourse between six artists ranging in ages from 88 to 36 years, as well as to see the cultural connections between the new art and the old.

Ali Banisadr, Interrogation, oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches (2010), in “Contemporary Iranian Art from the Permanent Collection” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

As ambitious as many of the works by the Old Masters in the Met, Banisadr’s art addresses universal questions about humankind and life. At the same time, his art is thoroughly post-Modern, eluding easy categorization and incorporating a myriad of artistic influences from both Western and non-Western history along with renowned Modern artists. His artworks entice you to engage in an act of looking that becomes a pleasurable Borges-ian labyrinth where you think you’re beginning to figure out what is going on just as you realize you probably do not.

Banisadr’s art has an aural quality, a way of experiencing sound through paint and linen. And he has taken the time to learn many of the Old Master techniques in handling oil paint, creating illusions such as light and air, and he fuses those brushwork elements with features of Persian Miniatures, particularly the compositional layering of perspectives and stylization of motifs. He creates his own unique versions of “history paintings”; instead of glorifying the current political systems and power structures, however, his art questions myths, history, what really happened and what is really happening.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Note:  A shorter version of this interview appeared in the Huffington Post.

“Contemporary Iranian Art from the Permanent Collection” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (l-r): Banisadr’s Interrogation (2010), Parviz Tanavoli, Poet Turning Into Heech (2007), Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Flight of the Dolphin (2010)

Julie Chae: I love how Maryam Ekhtiar’s terrific exhibition of contemporary Iranian art is right in middle of the Met’s New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.

Ali Banisadr: It is very interesting to walk in the new Islamic Wing and then enter this small exhibition that sort of shows the contemporary artists that are working today in art