Shirazeh Houshiary b. 1955, Shiraz, Iran
Colored pencil and acrylic on canvas
75 x 75 inches (190.5 x 190.5 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director's Council and Executive Committee Members: Tiqui Atencio Demirdjian, Christina Baker, Janna Bullock, Rita Rovelli Caltagirone, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, Harry David, Caryl Englander, Shirley Fiterman, Laurence Graff, Nicki Harris, Dakis Joannou, Rachel Lehmann, Linda Macklowe, Peter Norton, Katharina Otto-Bernstein, Tonino Perna, Inga Rubenstein, Simonetta Seragnoli, Cathie Shriro, Ginny Williams, and Elliot K. Wolk, and Sustaining Members: Linda Fischbach, Beatrice Habermann, and Cargill and Donna MacMillan, 2008
Since the early 1990s Shirazeh Houshiary has been making paintings and drawings that evoke universal human experiences. Working on the floor over the canvas, Houshiary begins these works by drawing Arabic words that she repeats in delicate layers over an acrylic ground. The colored pencil markings are woven like a chant, their minute reverberation transitioning from legibility to invisibility to create an immersive immateriality in works like Presence (2006–07). The form of these works as well as the meaning of the words themselves are not of primary importance to Houshiary; rather, they are a starting point for an encounter with the sublime: “I set out to capture my breath, to find the essence of my own existence, transcending name, nationality, cultures.” Here, the calligraphic marks loosen in the center of the work to reveal a dark ring that collapses and disappears. With its play between lightness and darkness, form and formlessness, Presence invites extended contemplation and manifests a perceptual experience of the intangible.