In a career that spans more than five decades, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian has balanced techniques and imagery drawn from Islamic decoration with the innovations of the Minimalist avant-garde. Since the mid-1970s, she has made mirror mosaics her chief means of expression, creating densely interwoven geometric arrays that reflect every nuance of light and movement in the surrounding environment. Convertibles and Polygons presents several examples of her work, showcased in the soaring spaces of Cullinan Hall in the Law Building. The installation has been conceived as part of the museum’s larger celebration of the arts of the Islamic world.
Farmanfarmaian (born in Iran in 1924) is keenly aware of the mystical implications of geometry in Islamic art. “When I discovered the mirror mosaics, I realized that nothing is done spontaneously; it is all a calculation of geometry and design," she has explained. "If you divide a circle at three points, it will be a triangle. In Islamic design, the triangle is the intelligent human being. If you divide the circle at four points, it will be a square, and it can be North, South, West, and East. The five sides of the pentagon are the five senses. The six sides of the hexagon are the directions: forward, backward, right, left, up, down. The hexagon also reflects the six virtues: generosity, self-discipline, patience, determination, insight, and compassion.”
At the same time, Farmanfarmaian treats geometry with incredible and intuitive fluidity. Her "Convertible" series, three of which are on display, can be installed in a variety of configurations, and her "Polygons" offer a seemingly infinite range of new geometries within each form.