Shapeshifters and Aliens at Ross & Rossi, London

Tuesday, September 6 at 6:00pm – October 6 at 6:00pm

Rossi and Rossi
16 Clifford street, London W1S 3DG
London, United Kingdom

Rossi & Rossi is delighted to present Shapeshifters and Aliens,
an exhibition of work by four emerging Iranian women artists, Samira Abbassy, Pooneh Maghazehe, Katayoun Vaziri and Anahita Vossoughi. The exhibition is curated by the Indian artist Jaishri Abichandani.

The notions of alterity and foreignness are the underlying threads that weave through the diverse and distinctive practices of each artist. The works in the exhibition are brought together not only by the artists’ ethnic origins but by their status as resident aliens in the United States. With the exception of Katayoun Vaziri, Pooneh Maghazehe, Anahita Vossoughi, and Samira Abbassy were all born outside of Iran. The sense of displacement that characterises the diaspora experience and the constant demand for transmutation – the need to negotiate the self between social, cultural, political and religious differences are reflected in the title of the exhibition “Shapeshifters and Aliens,” evoking themes from science-fiction as well as notions of immigration and border-crossing.

The four artists work in diverse media, ranging from sculpture, photography, painting and drawing. Pooneh Maghazehe’s colour photographs depict elaborately costumed figures that resemble shamans or nomads against a landscape evocative of the Central Asian plains. Her images allude to two historical communities, the Stonewall era Cockettes, a performance troupe of drag queens based in San Francisco and the Diggers, a 17th century proto-communist group of British Protestants. Maghazehe’s staged photographs challenge the viewer’s preconception of the exotic and the foreign; these outlandish figures in elaborate attire are in fact Utah natives, shot in the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah. A sense of playfulness combined with the strange also appears in Anahita Vossoughi’s work. In her sculptural pieces, the visceral is adorned by everyday kitsch, the alien and the grotesque colliding with the whimsical. The fusion of organic forms with everyday found objects almost
seem to come out of a fictional universe where alien life forms have overtaken the human world.

In a series of sepia-toned paintings entitled The Eternal War, Samira Abbassy depicts
contemporary military conflict in the Middle East by alluding to the mythologies of
the Holy Wars and the Cult of Martyrdom in Shia Islam. Using the visual language
of various 15th century “Shah-nama” manuscripts, Abbassy creates monochromatic
paintings on small square white panels. These spectacles of violence range from images
of swordsmen on horses to machine guns, tanks and the prisoners of Abu Ghraib.

Katayoun Vaziri’s hand drawn “movie posters” exploit the iconographic elements
of Iranian nationalist posters from the 80’s alongside the visual style of American
advertisement from the same period. The title of the series “It is meaning which is only

an ambiguous and inconsequential accident,” borrows from a statement by the cultural
theorist Jean Baudrillard. As part of the work, Vaziri invited people to digitally alter the
poster images and texts based on their own readings and interpretations. Through a series
of transformations, re-distributions and re-interpretations, the twenty-two movie posters
of fictional Hollywood films are the outcome of a collaboration between the artist and the

As the writer Sara Raza remarks in the catalogue essay, “Re-constructing Otherness
– Shapeshifters and Aliens,” whereas recent exhibitions of contemporary Iranian art
have focused mainly on debates surrounding gender and the veil, Shapeshifters and
Aliens pushes this dialogue further by providing an invigorating context to view the
work produced by the four women artists, using the tropes of science-fiction to examine
notions of citizenship, alterity, cultural identity, and migration.

Established in 1985 by Anna Maria Rossi, an expert with almost 40 years of experience
in Asian art, Rossi & Rossi has placed itself at the forefront of the global Asian art
market. Under the helm of Fabio Rossi, son of Anna Maria and partner in the gallery,
Rossi & Rossi exhibits works in all media by young and established contemporary artists
from all corners of Asia and the Middle East.

The private view on the 6th of September is co-hosted by the Omid Foundations. The Omid
Foundations empower disadvantaged young women in Iran by strengthening their social,
emotional, and economic competencies, and providing them with a sense of self-worth and
with the opportunities to experience a full range of life options through self-empowerment,
education, and training. Omid’s clients have typically been put into care from an early age,
been abandoned or run away from abusive homes. Contact:,, +44 (20) 75846949.

A percentage of the sales will be donated to the Omid Foundations.

For additional information, images, or to request an interview, please contact:
JUNKO THERESA MIKURIYA tel: 07906781338 email:


Image above: Pooneh Magazehe, Coquette’s Cusp: Act 1 Scene 6 Corey, 2011.

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