Acquisition: Animated Video by Avish Khebrehzadeh
The National Gallery of Art has acquired Seven Silent Songs (2020), a video animation by Washington, DC-based artist Avish Khebrehzadeh (b. 1969). Through a wide variety of mediums—from drawing to painting and video animation—Khebrehzadeh’s dreamscapes evoke a surreal world that reflects the artist’s experience as an émigré, having moved from her native Iran to Italy, Madagascar, and the United Kingdom before settling in the United States, and her meditations on an intertwined set of global displacements. Seven Silent Songs features people, animals, and flora alternating in a poetic cycle that examines the intersections of forced migration, climate change, and geopolitics. The first work by the artist to enter the collection, Seven Silent Songs adds to the National Gallery’s holdings of time-based media art and increases the representation of female artists.
To create Seven Silent Songs, Khebrehzadeh made thousands of drawings that she digitized, edited, and set in motion in six linked animations that loop to make a seventh composite work. Made with five frames per second, the video has a dynamic flickering effect and combines the hand-drawn quality of 2D animation with the technology of video. The work opens with a long line of galloping white horses moving across the screen from left to right. The remaining five scenes transition from animated illustrations of a man dragging a whale, jellyfish and a manatee swimming through a fluid environment, rhinos and birds meandering through a field, and military figures on stilts dragging cans and chairs behind them. The series concludes with herons flying across the screen from right to left.
Khebrehzadeh’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions worldwide, including at Rome’s Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI) and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The artist has also been featured at the biennials of Istanbul, Santa Fe, Liverpool, and Venice, where in 2003 she received the Golden Lion Award for best young artist working in Italy. Her work is held in the public collections of the Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island; Albertina Museum, Vienna; Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin; Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma; and MAXXI.
Khebrehzadeh was commissioned to create special site-responsive installations for the East Building while it underwent a skylight replacement and other renovations in 2021. Through her involvement in Artist Projects, she introduced new ways to experience familiar spaces of the East Building. Her poetic works Tree of Life in Blue and Seven Silent Songs were on view in the East Building from June 18, 2021, to February 27, 2022.
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