Born in Isfahan, Iran, in 1979 Pouyan has an MFA in Integrated Practices and New Forms at Pratt Institute, New York, and has an MFA in Painting from the Tehran University of Art. He previously studied Neoplatonic Philosophy at the Iranian Institute of Philosophy and received a diploma in Math and Physics from Elmieh School, Tehran. Between 2007 and 2009 he taught art history and the history of Persian Architecture at Science and Culture University, Tehran.
Shahpour Pouyan’s work is a commentary about power, domination and possession through the force of culture. His interest lies in singling out particular objects whose images captivate him, and by painting them he releases the feeling of anguish they create. Pouyan’s hooves are symbols for the aspiration of power, lonely beings with vain attempts at grandeur, which are faintly ridiculous, provoking mixed feelings of pity and contempt. The works draw their inspiration from Iranian miniatures with references to the cow as the symbol of power in the ancient cultures of Sumer, Babylon, Iran and Hinduism, emphasising the superego of male aggression throughout the centuries.
Pouyan brings the same spirit to his projectiles, demonstrating his wry sense of humour through references to high Persian culture. Working with traditional armourers and metal-smiths, and taking intricately decorated costume armour and military helmets, he has morphed them into the shape of modern rockets or ‘projectiles’. These suspended sculptures have an unsettling human-like experience closely resembling actors in the ‘Taziyeh’ (passion play) performed during the month of Muharram.
Pouyan has had numerous solo gallery shows including: Untitled, Barbara Walters Gallery, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, USA, 2019; Wūshuǐ, Copperfield, London, UK, 2018; The Incarnation of the Body Politic, The Armory Show, Focus Section, with Lawrie Shabibi, New York, USA, 2018; My Place is the Placeless, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2017; We owe this considerable land to the horizon line, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, France, 2017; History Travels at Different Speeds, Copperfield, London, UK, 2015; PTSD, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2014; Full Metal Jacket, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2011; The Hooves, Sixty Six Art Gallery, Tehran, Iran, 2010; Bana Bar In, Nar Gallery, Tehran, Iran, 2009; XVA Gallery Bastakia, Dubai, UAE, 2009 and Towers, Ave Gallery, Tehran, Iran, 2008.
Select group exhibitions include: Speaking Power to (Post) Truth, Curated by Sara Raza, Jane Lombard, New York, USA, 2019; Punk Orientalism, Curated by Sara Raza, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Canada, 2018; White Anxieties, Curated by Raul Zamudio and Juan Puntes, WhiteBox, New York City, USA, 2018; Only the Morning Bird Treasures the Flower Garden, REDCAT, Los Angeles, California, USA, 2018; In the Fields of Empty Days, Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), California, USA, 2018; The New Minimalists, Abrons Arts Center, New York City, USA, 2018; LB01, Lahore Biennial, Pakistan, 2018; Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 2017; The Silk Road and World’s Civilizations, 7th Beijing Biennale,National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China, 2017; The Jameel Prize 4 exhibition, Asia Culture Centre, Gwangju, South Korea, 2017; Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, USA, 2017; Insights, Art Basel Hong Kong, with Lawrie Shabibi, Hong Kong, 2017; Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada, 2017; Iranian Voices, Recent Acquisitions of Works on Paper, British Museum, London, UK, 2017; UNSEEN, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2016; For an Image, Faster Than Light, Yinc huan Museum of Contemporary Art, Yinchuan, China, 2016; Home Land Security, SF, USA, 2016; the Jameel Prize 4 exhibition, Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey, 2016; Recentring Modernism, Insights Sector, with Lawrie Shabibi, Art Basel Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2016; But Still Tomorrow Builds into My Face, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2016; Memory and Continuity: A Selection from the Huma Kabakci Collection, Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey, 2016; Global/Local 1960-2015: Six Artists From Iran, Grey Art Gallery, New York University, NYC, NY, USA, 2016; Young Collectors, The Elgiz Museum, Istanbul, Turkey, 2014; Whorled Explorations, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi Island, India, 2014; The Tower of Babel Project, Deuxpiece, Basel, Switzerland, 2014; Mykonos Biennale, Mykonos Island, Greece, 2013; For Which it Stands, The Lodge Gallery, NY, USA, 2013; Chambres à Part VII: Dark to Light, Tower of London, London, UK; 2013; ArtCycle Discovers: MFA Prize, Gallery Brooklyn, New York, USA, 2013; Nearly Neutral, Barbara Walters Gallery, New York, USA, 2013; Video-therapy, Session one: Recovery, Pratt Institute, New York, USA, 2012; Curate NYC Project, Rush Arts Gallery, NY, USA, 2012; 1389, Azad Art Gallery, Tehran, Iran, 2010; Baz in che shouresh ast, Video Project, Silk Road Art Gallery, Tehran, Iran, 2009.
His work is part of many prominent private and public collections including: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, New York; Collection of Robert Littman and Sully Bonnelly, New York, USA; The Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Asian and Middle Eastern Art, New York; The British Museum, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Mohammed Afkhami Collection, Dubai, Huma Kabakci Collection, Istanbul; SYZYGY, New York; The Farjam collection, Dubai; Zoroastrian Cultural Institute, Paris and the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran.
In 2016, Pouyan was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize 4 by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK and has been awarded the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship for Visual Arts in Umbria, Italy. He has participated in several international residencies including International Cite Des Arts, Paris, the Pegasus Art Foundation, Hyderabad, India, and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NY,USA in March 2014.
Shahpour Pouyan currently lives and works in New York.