Arghavan Khosravi Iranian, b. 1984


Arghavan Khosravi (b. 1984, Shahr-e-kord, Iran) is a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grantee and Walter Feldman Fellow. Khosravi’s inaugural solo exhibition with the gallery—Arghavan Khosravi: The Witness—opened in spring of 2022, coinciding with her first career solo museum exhibition, Arghavan Khosravi at The Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, on view through September 5, 2022, and following recent group exhibitions of her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Yinchuan, China, and at the Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI.


Khosravi’s studio practice mobilizes visual art as a vehicle for cultural transformation. Her recent works investigate the aesthetics of ancient Persian miniature paintings, which were originally used to illustrate folkloric texts. The landscapes of Persian miniatures are flattened, eliminating any sense of depth or perspective. Typically, the only women they portray have a subservient or secondary role, lacking agency and social significance. Khosravi’s paintings take a conscious look at how the value system transmitted by that iconography continues to shape Iranian gender politics today.


The most noticeable visual characteristic of Khosravi’s paintings is their multi-dimensionality. Constructed from a complex scaffolding of cut and painted wooden panels, they offer a constantly shifting perceptual experience. Visual motifs such as black plumes, rockets, and cages reference corrupted economic and political systems, while female bodies are often depicted as being shackled or with their mouths sewn shut. The introduction of contemporary figurative and symbolic iconographies that challenge misogynistic cultural architectures spotlights the ongoing international fight for gender equality. Despite referencing specific Persian miniature paintings from history, their architectural presence and content makes clear that Khosravi’s paintings are intended to subvert the visual tradition to which they belong.


Born in Iran shortly after its 1979 Revolution, Khosravi was raised in a contradictory culture where one repressive regime—an ancient monarchy—was overthrown and replaced by an even more repressive theocracy. Despite public adherence to the authoritarian political culture, however, many Iranians are looser and freer in their habits and beliefs when in private.


“The contradiction is part of our everyday life,” Khosravi says. “We separate our life: public and private. In public there are restrictions imposed, but we have our freedom in private space.”


Symbolism, metaphor, and abstraction have become essential parts of cultural expression within contemporary Iran’s dualistic social structure. Those same elements are also at the heart of Khosravi’s work. Like the ancient Persian miniatures they emulate, Khosravi’s paintings operate on multiple levels—intellectual, sensual, and emotional. They simultaneously critique and weaponize a particular type of authoritarian thinking: that which supposes art is frivolous and decorative, yet knows it has the power to communicate and affect social expectations and desires.


Arghavan Khosravi is a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grantee and Walter Feldman Fellow. Her recent solo exhibitions include Arghavan Khosravi at The Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, and Arghavan Khosravi: The Witness at Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL. Recent group exhibitions include Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained, an official collateral exhibition of the 59th Venice Biennale; as well as exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Yinchuan, China; Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL; Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI; and Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA; among others. Her recent residencies include The Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH; the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA; the Studios at MassMoCA, North Adams, MA; Monson Arts, Monson, ME; and Residency Unlimited, Brooklyn, NY. Khosravi earned an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design after completing the studio art program at Brandeis University. Khosravi previously earned a BFA in Graphic Design from Tehran Azad University and an MFA in Illustration from the University of Tehran. Khosravi’s work is in the collections of the Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA; The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum; Philadelphia, PA; Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH; Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI; and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI, among others. Khosravi lives and works in Stamford, Connecticut.