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Y.Z. Kami - Endless Prayers at Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art
Y. Z. Kami, Endless Prayers V, 2007, Mixed media on paper, 115.6 x 83.8 cm (45 1/2 x 33 in),
Collection of Susan and John Hess, New York. Photography Rob McKeever.

LONDON.- Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art presents the first solo exhibition of paintings and works on paper by the Persian born artist Y.Z. Kami, titled Endless Prayers. This group of works has been created over the past ten years and will be shown for the first time in the UK.

The most striking works in this exhibition are undoubtedly Y.Z. Kami's large and frontal painted portraits of ordinary people, each of whom entirely fills the canvas, often measuring three metres by two metres. Despite their imposing size and intense presence, these portraits are neither flattering nor psychological; rather, they depict the subjects as they are, absorbed in their own world. This characteristic together with their fresco-like quality, executed using a special painting technique, endows the figures with a certain lack of materiality resembling the Fayum portraits which were painted to accompany Egyptian mummies in their graves. In some of the paintings the eyes of the subjects are closed, but in others they are open and they gaze either inwardly or at a fixed point in the distance. In most cases it is difficult to establish eye contact and each painted figure seems to carry its own distinct history within itself.

The same frontality and detachment is prevalent in Y.Z. Kami's monumental photographs of Islamic sites and architecture. For Y.Z. Kami, architecture, like human beings, speaks of its own history and at times he combines architecture with portraits of people to create some poignant works, such as Dry Land, 1994-2004 and Konya, 2007.

The exhibition will also feature Y.Z. Kami's works on paper, entitled Endless Prayers. These works are made by gluing countless minute brick-shaped cut-outs from poetry and prayer texts on to the canvas often in circular arrangements, but also according to some Islamic architectural detailing of domes. The circular and spiralling patterns are inspired by the whirling motions in the rituals of dervishes found in the Mawlavi order of Sufism, who profess that the act of spinning undoes the ego, cleanses them of the self and finds the sole unity of God. The Mawlavi order of Sufism was founded by the thirteenth century Persian poet, Rumi, whose work has played an important role in Y.Z. Kami's life and work since he began studying it as a young man. The work entitled Konya, 2007, was made in homage to the poet and bears the name of the town where Rumi spent his last years of life, died and has today his mausoleum.

Y.Z. Kami was born in 1956 in Tehran, Iran, and now lives and works in New York. He has had various solo exhibitions in the US, at Barbara Toll Fine Arts, 1992 and 1993; Holly Salomon Gallery, 1996; Deitch Projects, 1998 and 2001 all in New York City; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 2003; John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, 2007 and Gagosian Gallery Los Angeles 2008.

Y.Z. Kami's work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

In conjunction with the exhibition, an extensive programme of events, as stated below, will be held at Parasol unit. For more information please visit our website at:

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art is an independent educational charity devoted to promoting contemporary art for the benefit of the public. The core activity of the foundation is to showcase the work of contemporary leading and young international artists in various media. Each year Parasol unit mounts four exhibitions in various media, and each is usually accompanied by a publication. In order to encourage the widest possible access to its exhibition programme, Parasol unit does not charge admission fees.

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