Forced Migration in the Red Room

BY Katrina Kufer / Apr 18 2017 / 19:36 PM

Iranian artists the Ghasemi brothers exhibit individual and collaborative works in New York on the subject of forced migration

Forced Migration in the Red Room
Image courtesy Roya Khadjavi Project
Red Room. 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 40 cm

Two concurrent exhibitions this month by Roya Khadjavi Projects showcase the socio-political works of the three Iranian Ghasemi brothers with a focus on their joint series of works under the title Red Room 2: Migratory Birds. Tackling the perils of forced migration, “the goal of this collaboration was to focus on disagreements and differences rather than working towards convergence,” stated Morteza Ghasemi Shilsar, one of the brothers, in 2016. As part of that goal, the trio destroyed and remade their works several times over, transforming the works from painting to sculpture or installation and back again as they allowed the red hue to take centre stage.

The colour sets the tone for the unsettling exhibition which is described by the gallery as “the migrant’s nightmare.” Addressing a current global situation where over 60 million people are displaced and its resulting divisive effect on elections, identities and nations, the Ghasemis also recognise the cathartic and empathetic impact of visual arts. Holding to the belief that the visual arts offers an alternative facet to the dehumanising rhetoric that surrounds any crisis, their works strive to portray that while humanitarian efforts are slow going, art can play its part by reformulating the way the public views migrants.

Using hyperbole to emphasise the polarising effect of forced migration, works include giant, naked and obese figures in the midst of surreal landscapes, and sculptures of birds, roughly installed and awkwardly placed. Inviting viewers to participate in the theatricality, the satirical tone and exaggeration are tempered by academic references to traditional Iranian painting and the reminder that this exhibition may be a whimsical visual expression, but it depicts the invisibility, displacement and pain of the displaced as they assimilate, welcomed or unwelcomed, into new and unfamiliar environments.

Red Room by the Ghasemi brothers runs 19 April-2 May 2017 at Elga Wimmer Gallery, New York, USA. For more information visit