ICY and SOT
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.