Things aren’t always what they appear to be and, when they aren’t, they can provide a visual challenge for the viewer. Take the Cano Cristales in Colombia, from a distance the water appears to contain a ‘liquid rainbow’ but, when you take a step closer, you can see that the rainbow comes from a rare plant growing beneath the water’s surface. Similar to this natural phenomenon, Nairy Baghramian’s sculpture work can look completely different with a mere step forward or backward in an exhibition.
Baghramian is an Iranian-born German visual artist working out of Berlin. Baghramian specializes in sculpture and works with a wide variety of different materials including steel, silicon, leather, and resin. Her work offers a new take on surrealism and minimalism, creating objects shaped and staged specifically to resemble things like cavities, bones, lumps, spills, and organs. And she utilizes her unique style of sculpture in order to take on themes such as aesthetic object production and feminism, challenging the idea of traditionally ‘feminine’ spaces.
Baghramian’s sculptures are also unique in that they are often somewhat unstable, dangling or leaning with flimsy supports seemingly on the brink of collapse. This adds the themes of instability and fragility to her work while allowing them to give her work a sense of visual suspense.
Given all of this, it’s no wonder Nairy Baghramian was recently announced as the recipient of the 2022 Nasher Prize for Sculpture. Jeremy Strick, the director of the sculpture center, said that the value of Baghramian’s work was particularly evident amid the social isolation of the pandemic. “After these many months of reduced personal contact with beloved people, places and things… it was of the utmost importance to the jury to champion an artist who deals in realms of the physical — the tangible — and Nairy Baghramian’s work stood out for its deep commitment to the object-based traditions of sculpture.”
In addition to the 2022 Nasher Prize for Sculpture, which also comes with a $100,000 prize, Baghramian is currently showcasing her exhibition Side Leaps at the Mariam Goodman Gallery in London until October 30th, 2021. This show, rather than focusing on her sculptures, focuses on sketches, drawings, and maquettes. They each contain images or inspirations for sculptures that Baghramian has thought of but been unable to make. Or, in her own words, the ideas “have not been allowed to become sculpture.” She has also released a book titled Side Leaps which contains a collection of these illustrations as well as essays and conversations from several artists.
When speaking of the well-deserved recognition Baghramian received with the 2022 Nasher Prize for Sculpture, Jeremy Stick summarizes it best, “Deeply committed to the object-making traditions of sculpture, Baghramian carefully considers materials and form to create sculptures that are evocative, enigmatic explorations of the body and that probe our proclivity toward binaries of the interior and exterior, the insider and the outsider… It is a privilege to celebrate her accomplishments on the occasion of this award.”