Interview with Icy and Sot for “Human (Nature)”

Icy and Sot’s Human (Nature) is the first solo exhibition and full gallery takeover by the internationally acclaimed Iranian, Brooklyn-based artist-activist duo. A collection of work ranging from sculptures to stencils, the duos breadth of talent shows in Human (Nature).   Below is our interview with the artists discussing the inspiration behind the exhibition, the role of art in society, and what it’s like to work and create alongside one’s brother.

Make sure to check out Human (Nature) on view now through November 25th.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?
I & S: The inspiration comes from the nature where we always find peace and inspiration for our work, its so sad to see the planet crying now, with all these natural disasters happening every other week recently its trying to say something. We need to listen and respect it more than ever now, we have destroyed so much of it already that we can’t repair or even stop it. But we can give the planet a longer life, by caring more about it and by doing something, the impact can be small but if all of us try we will have [a better] chance.

We only recycle 1 of every 5 water bottles. We all should try to use less and less plastic in our life. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been created since the 19th century its still somewhere on our planet. Plastic is killing the planet and our health, there is just too much plastic floating around in rivers, seas and oceans; our usage of plastic ends up in our food chain and back again on our plates, when eating fish and sea food.

SH: There is clearly a higher risk involved in creating street art in Iran versus America or Europe, how has that risk-informed your art?
I & S: Yes in some ways. Graffiti and Street art is illegal in Iran and America or Europe, the main difference is that there is no legal form of street art in Iran like mural festivals or legal walls, its been always underground and illegal, other difference is if you get caught they could label you as political activist even if your work is not politically charged.

All the works we did in Iran were usually painted over less than a week sometimes overnight, that made us to be even more active and start to make work about censorship and other issues in the country, that kinda activism remain in us, although we are based in country with more freedom, but there are so many issues that need to be spoken!

SH: Tell us what you feel is your brother’s artistic strength and how he helps you be a better artist (a reply from each would be great here).
I & S: We started working together, don’t think we could have continued if we didn’t have each other,
we always supported each other from the very beginning, working in Iran and Migrating to a new country.
We learned faster, we worked faster, its great to brainstorm about ideas together, we start with a simple idea, and we can build it up, its so much easier to make dissection together, we have the same thoughts, interests, we are basically one artist together.

SH: What is your collaborative process like with gallery pieces versus murals?
I & S: They are both the same, we start with the idea, and we both work on it until we complete it.

SH: Since you’re a collaborative team, how do you resolve conflicts or come together on a piece when the other person is resistant or doesn’t like the direction.
I & S: We have a drink and try to find a way that we both think is better

SH: Can you walk us through a day in the studio?
I & S: We don’t have big studio, we start work from home with catching up with emails and planing our day in the studio, we usually walk or bike to the studio and start working on whatever project we have coming up, always listing to music while working , the creative time is usually at night when we brainstorm together and work on ideas

SH: In Iran, to leave the country, you must serve in the military. You both were studying at University before deciding to join the military in order to travel and work. Was that an easy decision to make? Can you elaborate on how having to make a decision like that motivates the art and work you do?
 I & S: Yes that was a very easy decision to make, since our passion was what we were doing, and it was hard to continue and work as an artist in Iran, the hard decision was when we wanted to get asylum and stay in NY knowing that we can’t go back home, we making decision like that we proved ourself that we can always continue what we love to do and never stop.

SH: What do you think the role of the artists in society is? Why are you both artists?
I & S: Art can definitely contribute to change in society, especially public art because it has more and diverse viewers, We try to give the audience the opportunity to imagine a better world. The impact a piece has on the course of someone’s day may be small, but it’s still an impact. 
We believe the role of the artist is to advocate for the freedom and the hope of the general public and raise awareness about the issues happening in their time.

We didn’t start as an artist; we didn’t know we will be doing this for our whole life and get where we are now, so it was kinda natural.

SH: What is one of your most memorable pieces to date?
I & S: “Let Her be Free”

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
I & S: Either going to hiking and camping in nature or hanging out / parting with friends.

ICY and SOT “Plastic Oceans” for Human (Nature) Opens November 4th.

Two days away, ICY and SOT’s Human (Nature) takes over Thinkspace Gallery.

Human (Nature), its first solo exhibition and full gallery takeover by internationally acclaimed Iranian, Brooklyn-based artist-activist duo, ICY and SOT. In Human (Nature) ICY and SOT return to one of the most fundamental and widely disavowed plights that face us, globally and universally as humankind – the necessity of nurturing the environment we have steadily marauded and violated beyond repair. Invoking the peaceful balance of nature as a counterpoint to the deleterious effects of human consumption and waste, ICY and SOT want to inspire us all to see the planet’s vulnerability and to make small strides towards productive change and personal accountability.

Opening reception for Human (Nature) is Saturday, November 4th from 6 pm to 9 pm.

ICY AND SOT’s ‘Human (Nature)’ Opens Next Saturday, November 4th.

ICY and SOT
‘Human (Nature)’
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 4 from 6-9PM
On view November 4 – November 25

Thinkspace is pleased to present Human (Nature), its first solo exhibition and full gallery takeover by internationally acclaimed Iranian, Brooklyn-based artist-activist duo, ICY and SOT. The brothers, born in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, started their legacy as street artists by producing simple, single layer stencils and wheat pasted stickers in 2006. Throwing them up covertly, and as quickly as possible, wherever they could throughout the city’s less-traveled recesses, ICY and SOT were genuinely tapped into the impermanence of street art as a medium given their interventions would last no more than 24 hours in the highly regulated and censored Islamic political regime. Isolated by the political oppression steadily in place since the Islamic Revolution of the late ’70s, the brothers, and their art grew and thrived under severely impeded circumstances.

All public exhibits and expressions of art in Iran are subject to intense scrutiny and suppression, forced to submit to government approval before any kind of dissemination. This is the unlikely political climate under which ICY and SOT found their voice. Every act of creativity under said circumstances becomes an act of protest and countercultural dissent, not to mention one of great risk and uncertainty. The brothers are no strangers to reprimand in a country where the political stranglehold demands imprisonment for minor acts of transgression. Their earliest imagery grew from this place of profound longing, driven by a desire to express compassion, truth, hope, and connect with the silenced cities and its inhabitants. Some of their first intercessions into the Iranian streets were recurring representations of children, specifically of a little boy with downcast stance walking forward. In their minds, the clearest and most direct expression of innocence and resilience they could invoke in a world of adult subjugation and violence.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the brothers’ work is that it evolved in a near cultural vacuum, emerging from anonymity and under the most restrictive circumstances to international recognition and acclaim. Though there were punk and skater countercultures that emerged in Iran in spite of the prevailing political climate, the brothers had no access to other manifestations of “street art” as an international genre with historical antecedents. It wasn’t until they were able to access internet sites beyond Iran’s firewall that they came into contact with other examples of the medium and its emergence as a “legitimate” art form, owing in significant part to New York’s vibrant 70’s and 80’s city culture. It was also through social media and image-based sites like Flickr that they were finally able to circulate photographic evidence of their work, the only extant and surviving record of their highly temporary intercessions in the streets of Iran, and were able to amass a following, connecting them with other artists and exponents of street-based art.

Finally, in 2012 they were granted travel Visas to attend a solo exhibition of their work in New York City, traveling to the US and leaving Iran for the first time. They took the opportunity to immigrate, settling in Brooklyn with mounting legal tensions surrounding their freedom of expression at home, and have since established themselves as thriving, generous, and active members of the artist community there. They have now created work all over the world, delivering poignant and humbling expressions of human pathos and compassion worldwide. Their output is immediately recognizable for its clean graphic aesthetic, reminiscent of print media, their use of elaborate multi-layer stencils, and now photo-based and sculptural works.
Increasing in sophistication and diversity of messaging, the brothers have tackled topics such as poverty, homelessness, women’s rights, gun control, immigration, and climate change, converting the same terse and impactful language they had cultivated as political acts of protest in their home country to gestures of activism worldwide. Their work has richly evolved into several tangential and intersecting adjuncts as they continue to experiment with not only murals and walls, but gallery-based artworks, public interventions, like their advertising takeover series, and site-specific sculptural installations. All executed in the same minimal graphic language, sparse color, through clean impactful compositions.
In Human (Nature) ICY and SOT return to one of the most fundamental and widely disavowed plights that face us, globally and universally as humankind – the necessity of nurturing the environment we have steadily marauded and violated beyond repair. Invoking the peaceful balance of nature as a counterpoint to the deleterious effects of human consumption and waste, ICY and SOT want to inspire us all to see the planet’s vulnerability and to make small strides towards productive change and personal accountability.
The brothers continue their inspiring pursuit of truth and personal expression, reminding us with every public emission and imprint left on the world of the real power of art, imagery, and public activism in a world of discouraging desensitization. Now, more than ever, the active cultivation of freedom, mutual respect, and compassion through art is the cultural lifeline we’d all do well to support.

 

ICY and SOT’s “HUMAN (NATURE)” Coming to Thinkspace Gallery

ICY and SOT
HUMAN (NATURE)
November 4 – November 25, 2017

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present Human (Nature), its first solo exhibition and full gallery takeover by internationally acclaimed Iranian, Brooklyn-based artist-activist duo, ICY and SOT. The brothers, born in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, started their legacy as street artists by producing simple, single layer stencils and wheat pasted stickers in 2006. Throwing them up covertly, and as quickly as possible, wherever they could throughout the city’s less-traveled recesses, ICY and SOT were genuinely tapped into the impermanence of street art as a medium given their interventions would last no more than 24 hours in the highly regulated and censored Islamic political regime. Isolated by the political oppression steadily in place since the Islamic Revolution of the late ‘70s, the brothers, and their art grew and thrived under severely impeded circumstances.

All public exhibits and expressions of art in Iran are subject to intense scrutiny and suppression, forced to submit to government approval before any kind of dissemination. This is the unlikely political climate under which ICY and SOT found their voice. Every act of creativity under said circumstances becomes an act of protest and countercultural dissent, not to mention one of great risk and uncertainty. The brothers are no strangers to reprimand in a country where the political stranglehold demands imprisonment for minor acts of transgression. Their earliest imagery grew from this place of profound longing, driven by a desire to express compassion, truth, hope, and connect with the silenced cities and its inhabitants. Some of their first intercessions into the Iranian streets were recurring representations of children, specifically of a little boy with downcast stance walking forward. In their minds, the clearest and most direct expression of innocence and resilience they could invoke in a world of adult subjugation and violence.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the brothers’ work is that it evolved in a near cultural vacuum, emerging from anonymity and under the most restrictive circumstances to international recognition and acclaim. Though there were punk and skater countercultures that emerged in Iran in spite of the prevailing political climate, the brothers had no access to other manifestations of “street art” as an international genre with historical antecedents. It wasn’t until they were able to access internet sites beyond Iran’s firewall that they came into contact with other examples of the medium and its emergence as a “legitimate” art form, owing in significant part to New York’s vibrant 70’s and 80’s city culture. It was also through social media and image-based sites like Flickr that they were finally able to circulate photographic evidence of their work, the only extant and surviving record of their highly temporary intercessions in the streets of Iran, and were able to amass a following, connecting them with other artists and exponents of street-based art.

Finally, in 2012 they were granted travel Visas to attend a solo exhibition of their work in New York City, traveling to the US and leaving Iran for the first time. They took the opportunity to immigrate, settling in Brooklyn with mounting legal tensions surrounding their freedom of expression at home, and have since established themselves as thriving, generous, and active members of the artist community there. They have now created work all over the world, delivering poignant and humbling expressions of human pathos and compassion worldwide. Their output is immediately recognizable for its clean graphic aesthetic, reminiscent of print media, their use of elaborate multi-layer stencils, and now photo-based and sculptural works. Increasing in sophistication and diversity of messaging, the brothers have tackled topics such as poverty, homelessness, women’s rights, gun control, immigration, and climate change, converting the same terse and impactful language they had cultivated as political acts of protest in their home country to gestures of activism worldwide. Their work has richly evolved into several tangential and intersecting adjuncts as they continue to experiment with not only murals and walls, but gallery-based artworks, public interventions, like their advertising takeover series, and site-specific sculptural installations. All executed in the same minimal graphic language, sparse color, through clean impactful compositions.

In Human (Nature) ICY and SOT return to one of the most fundamental and widely disavowed plights that face us, globally and universally as humankind – the necessity of nurturing the environment we have steadily marauded and violated beyond repair. Invoking the peaceful balance of nature as a counterpoint to the deleterious effects of human consumption and waste, ICY and SOT want to inspire us all to see the planet’s vulnerability and to make small strides towards productive change and personal accountability.

The brothers continue their inspiring pursuit of truth and personal expression, reminding us with every public emission and imprint left on the world of the real power of art, imagery, and public activism in a world of discouraging desensitization. Now, more than ever, the active cultivation of freedom, mutual respect, and compassion through art is the cultural lifeline we’d all do well to support.