Y. Z. Kami Selected Works

Y.Z. Kami 20 Apr 2018 - 15 Jun 2018

Ab-Anbar Gallery Presents a Major Exhibition by Y.Z. Kami, Accompanied by the Publication of an Artist Monograph. Produced in collaboration with the imprint, Contemporary Art Publications (Tehran) the publication Y.Z. Kami Selected works (2018), features essays by Babak Ahmadi and Robert Storr, and is the most comprehensive publication to date made about the artist’s work. 

Born in 1956, Tehran, Kami lives and works in New York. After studying philosophy at UC Berkeley (1974-75), Kami was a student of Emmanuel Levinas at the Sorbonne (1976-81). Subsequently, he embarked on a career as a painter. As an artist, he is self-taught. While still a child, he learned his craft working alongside his Mother, who was a renowned realist painter in Iran.​


“I admire him for attempting to make the invisible visible by presenting the visages of men and women whose gazes, averted from ours, have been directed inward. For in these pictures Kami enlists sight in the cause of introspection in a manner that contradicts the premises of most portraiture, which banks on the eyes serving as windows to the soul.” “Every Time I Feel the Spirit…”, Robert Storr, Y.Z. Kami (2018)

Ab-Anbar’s mini survey of Y.Z. Kami’s paintings features as its earliest work, the artist’s Self-Portrait as a Child (1998), which is one of a series. Kami has produced a substantial body of portraiture throughout his career. is one of a series Kami has produced a substantial body of portraiture throughout his career. Many of these works feature a frontal depiction of the sitter, head and shoulders filling the frame, engaging the viewer with a direct and open gaze. By contrast, many other works welcome the viewer with the silence of shut eyes. With the warm, flesh-toned hues of his palette and the soft detailing of his brushwork, he creates portraits of an enveloping warmth and intimacy. For Kami, painting is a medium for populating the world with the basic truth of our common humanity.​​​


“Kami’s works have never reached abstraction to better air emotions. His favourite painter is not Kandinsky. He is not letting go of the world outside but neither does he see himself duty-bound to represent it. He has relied on his own feelings, his own emotions, his lived experiences, people around him, those he likes or wants to know, his own view of the history of painting.” “The Art of Repetition”, Babak Ahmadi. Y.Z. Kami (2018)

Parallel to his portraiture, the artist has also produced an ongoing series of abstract paintings. These works feature tile-like patterning in concentric circles that evoke the religious architecture of the dome. Consisting of patterns that radiate out from the painting’s centre, each one combines the pictorial language of décor, while pointing at the origins of that vocabulary in the natural world. For each work, the focal point is the viewer, configured as if looking up to the sky or into the celestial night, or gazing up to the ceiling of the temple where they worship.

Connecting the two strands of Kami’s practice is his ongoing series of paintings featuring praying hands. An homage to this symbol of devotion that bridges all faiths (see the famous work by Albrecht Dürer, for instance) these paintings are rendered using the blurred (or sfumato) brushwork technique that is also seen in many of Kami’s portraits. Kami’s use of this technique is implicitly understood as a tactile appeal to the viewer, to come closer to the painting, and also to experience the work as an immanence that expands beyond any knowledge of a specific cultural context or religious doctrine.

Y.Z. Kami has had recent solo exhibitions with the Gagosian Gallery, Paris (2018); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2016); Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai (2016); Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, London (2015); Gagosian Gallery, Madison Avenue, New York (2014); National Museum of Contemporary Art, EMST, Athens (2009); the 52nd Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2007); Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca (2003). Recent group exhibitions include Aga Khan Museum, Toronto (2017); Paul G. Allen Family Collection, Pivot Art + Culture, Seattle (2017); Ab-Anbar Gallery, Tehran (2016); Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (2014). Kami’s work is held and has been exhibited by many major collections, including the British Museum, London; Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.