SAN FRANCISCO, CA.-
San Francisco-based artist Taraneh Hemami’s striking window design has been selected as the winner of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
’ public art project competition. The new art commission, which was funded by a grant from the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District under the Public Art funding priority, has been installed on the expansive front window of YBCA’s Forum building and overlooks Yerba Buena Gardens. One of 64 submissions, the winning design was chosen by panelists Betti-Sue Hertz, director of visual arts at YBCA; Susan Krane, director of the San Jose Museum of Art; Maurizzio Pineda, gallery coordinator at the Mission Cultural Center; and Kevin King, YBCA board member.
Taraneh Hemami, who was born in Tehran, has created a powerful work that complements the nautical elements of the architect Fumihiko Maki’s design of YBCA’s Galleries and Forum building, which references San Francisco’s position as a major commercial and immigration port. In light of the current wave of protests and demonstrations taking place in the Arab world, in addition to ongoing censorship of the arts in the United States, Hemami uses YBCA’s setting in downtown San Francisco as a public platform to celebrate the city’s open spirit, while echoing the call for freedom that has risen across the globe.
“At a time when there is so much hope amidst so much turmoil in the Middle East, it makes sense for YBCA to support the vision of an artist who expresses the huge potential for liberation and change being demanded from people across the region,” said Betti-Sue Hertz. “The artwork is a symbol of hope and solidarity with desires for freedom.”
The centerpiece of Hemami’s design for YBCA is a neon sign with the word “free”—in both English and Arabic—repeated in a circle, acting as a chant or incantation. The English version, in blue, runs clockwise and can be read from the interior of the building, while the Arabic version, in yellow, conjoined within it, runs counterclockwise and can be read from the exterior of the building. The neon is surrounded by two intricate geometric patterns, one overlaid on top of the other, inspired by Islamic decorative art, which itself refuses to adhere strictly to the rules of geometry. The relative freedom in the complex shapes echoes the circular call for liberty. The intricate piece will be on display for a period of approximately 18 months to two years, and can be viewed both inside and outside of YBCA’s Forum building, which also holds YBCA’s galleries, screening room and the Forum theater.
Taraneh Hemami engages in diverse artistic strategies that include installation; object and media productions; and collective and participatory projects that explore themes of displacement, preservation and representation. Her works investigate the in-between spaces: between art, artifact and architecture; between two and three-dimensional space; between the private and the public; between technology and hand-crafted objects. Examining the careful crafting of images as propagated for power and political gain, Taraneh's projects comment on tools of manipulation and persuasion used across nations and histories. She has received awards and fellowships from the Fleishhacker Foundation (Eureka, 2012), Kala Art Institute (Kala Fellowship, 2007), San Francisco Arts Commission (Cultural Equity, 2002 and 2007), Christensen Fund (2005-2006), James Irvine Foundation (New Vision for California, 2004), California Council for the Humanities (California Story Fund, 2003), and the Creative Work Fund (2002).