Parastou Forouhar’s ‘Papillon Collection’: Beauty Amidst Turmoil

The Advocartsy Gallery in Los Angeles hosts a remarkable exhibition by renowned artist Parastou Forouhar. Born in Tehran in 1962 and Germany in 1991, Forouhar’s work is a powerful critique of the ornamental culture that often suppresses individualism. In her own words, she equates this culture with a totalitarian system that enforces conformity and removes anything that disrupts the established order. Her art blurs the lines between form and concept, biography and artistry, offering a thought-provoking experience for viewers.

Forouhar’s art invites us to contemplate the interplay between violence and resilience. It draws us into a world where the personal and the profound converge, encouraging us to share in her anger and witness her enduring spirit. Her work is a testament to the transformative power of visual, verbal, or emotional evidence in reshaping the social order.

One of the standout collections in this exhibition is the “Papillon Collection,” where Forouhar ingeniously encapsulates the coexistence of beauty and horror within the delicate guise of butterflies. Through the graceful contours of their wing pairs, she unfolds scenes of terror laden with aggression and raw brutality – images of bondage, subjugation, and execution. Each butterfly carries its name, retrospectively embodying a historically significant event in contemporary Iranian history.

Among these poignant creations is “Flight PS 725,” a tribute to the tragic downing of Ukraine Airlines Flight PS 752 on January 8, 2020, a heart-wrenching incident that struck a chord with the world. “Nayzar” pays homage to the residents of Mahshar, who protested by blocking access roads to oil refineries in the face of economic hardships, only to be met with a brutal response. “Stained” memorializes victims of acid attacks, while “Zankoshi” alludes to the official honor killings of women, exposing the profoundly misogynistic stance of the regime.

“Dokhtar e Abi” serves as a poignant memory of a devoted fan of the Esteghlal football club, who, despite the ban on women entering stadiums, bravely donned the team’s colors, symbolizing a desire to attend a game. In a tragic act of protest, she set herself on fire, becoming an icon of defiance. “Haft Tappe” commemorates the workers’ uprising at a sugarcane factory in southwestern Iran, highlighting their struggle for withheld wages and the subsequent labor movement.

These butterflies, celebrated in Persian mystical poetry for their devotion and sacrifice, are transformed into aesthetically pleasing artifacts through intricate ornamentation. They embody the ancient culture of Persia, its rich poetry, and cherished memories of home, security, and maternal love. Notably, the butterfly, known as “Parwaneh” in Persian, shares its name with the artist’s mother. Yet, beneath these positive associations lies a tragic beauty that becomes apparent upon closely examining Forouhar’s creations.

The Parastou Forouhar exhibition at the Advocartsy Gallery in Los Angeles offers a profound journey through the intricate world of her art. It invites viewers to explore the delicate balance between aesthetics and unsettling narratives, urging us to reflect on the complex layers of culture, history, and resilience. Advocates Gallery’s commitment to showcasing such powerful and thought-provoking exhibitions reinforces its role as a vital platform for contemporary art in Los Angeles.