Siah Armajani, the Iranian-American conceptual artist, has died, aged 81

Siah Armajani Metropolitan Museum of Art

Siah Armajani, the perceptive Iranian-American artist known for using architectural language and imagery in his conceptual practice, has died, aged 81. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which co-organized his 2018 retrospective Siah Armajani: Follow This Line in concert with Minneapoliss Walker Art Center, announced the artists death on social media.

Armajani studied philosophy at the University of Tehran but left in 1960 out of fear of being arrested for his political activity, continuing his studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the US, the artist became infatuated with the structures of rural America, evincing a particular attraction towards the countrys grain silos, farm buildings and covered bridges.

''You can walk around a barn and into it and see exactly how it's put together and how it's supposed to function,'' he told The New York Times in 2002. ''There's no concealment. And that is what art should be.” Such hallmarks of an aesthetic that held simplicity and utility in high regard came to typify the artists practice, particularly surrounding his public commissions, of which there were many.

In 1988, he was commissioned to design the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, a 375-foot long steel structure that connects the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with that citys Loring Park neighbourhood. In 1996 he designed the Olympic torch and the structure in which it was housed when the games were held in Atlanta. His prodigious career in public sculpture was guided by his manifesto, on which he worked from 1968 to 1978, revising it further in 1993, with the title Public Sculpture in the Context of American Democracy.

Ironworkers finish uncovering the Centennial Olympic cauldron, designed by Siah Armajani, in 1996 AP Photo/Tannen Maury

It is easy to track the influence of the utilitarian, rural aesthetic reflected in the manifesto that shaped his work; the 26-point document includes such tenets as “Public sculpture is a search for a cultural history which calls for structural unity between the object and its social and spatial setting. It should be open, available, useful and common,” and, “We enter public sculpture not as a thing between four walls in a spatial sense but as a tool for activity.” The manifesto also decried the notion that art need only attract and cater to a specialist audience, saying, “the ethical dimensions of the arts are mostly gone and only in a newly formed relationship with a non-art audience may the ethical dimensions come back to the arts.”

In 2019, Armajanis 1970 Bridge Over Tree was recreated in New Yorks Brooklyn Bridge Park. The work consisted of a timber truss bridge with steps that rose and fell sharply over an evergreen tree that was planted in the park as part of the work. The public was encouraged to walk through and along the work. “There was a lonely evergreen tree in the landscape, and I fantasised to walk from one side, go above the tree and land on the other side: to make peace,” he told The Art Newspaper on the occasion of the works installation. “So I built that bridge in 1970 in Minneapolis. That piRead More – Source