Press Release

YBCA Presents طراوت | TARAVAT, an exhibition by Iranian-American Artist Taravat Talepasand

The artist explores displacement and the policing of women across geographies through the lens of subjecthood and collective history

The exhibition will be on view at YBCA’s galleries from May 13 – July 23, 2023

Reified by Taravat Talepasand.

Reified by Taravat Talepasand. Courtesy of YBCA

(San Francisco, CA – April 27, 2023) Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is pleased to present طراوت | TARAVAT, an exhibition by Iranian-American artist Taravat Talepasand, opening on May 13, 2023. Bringing together more than 25 paintings, drawings, installation pieces, and more, TARAVAT is a timely and trenchant examination of fifteen years of the artist’s work.

Made in Iran and born in America during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Talepasand is an artist, activist, and educator whose labor-intensive, interdisciplinary painting practice questions cultural taboos and contemporary power imbalances in the United States and Iran.

طراوت | TARAVAT is a record of the artist’s attempts to grapple with the difficult legacy of women’s freedom and Muslim identity—transforming it visually, to make something both beautiful and uncomfortable. The presentation stages encounters between European and Persian miniature art, aesthetic conventions and techniques, and brings together artworks including painting, sculpture, neon, glazed porcelains, rugs and assembled objects.

Following the national and global protests that unfolded in response to the killing of Jîna Amini in October 2022, and the brutal repression and propaganda campaign that ensued from the Iranian state, the artist’s lines of inquiry around representation, iconography, and womanhood are as crucial as ever.

Talepasand draws on the visual conventions of Pop art, propaganda, and appropriation, largely characterized by labor-intensive and repetitive processes. The human figure often found in her work is plural and ever changing, an evolving set of personal and collective representations that playfully subvert the male gaze. The glazed porcelain statuette BlasphemyTagged, for example—a colorful depiction of a veiled and weeping female figure—is an uncontained and graffitied body that wryly reflects the American collective imagination and overtly redirects the viewer’s gaze towards it through pop culture symbols.

Whether it is through her mixed media installation IRAN IRAN IRAN IRAN—an emoji-patched denim jacket attached to a peace sign that hangs by a noose—or her sensual reinterpretation of traditionally Eurocentric subject matter in the painting Still Life: Half Sin, the work continually asks the viewer to reconsider the ideological assumptions that index Iranian identity, state power, and gender. Talepasand explores effective forms of image-making and propaganda, inquiring into how the body and the image come to mean and rebel against assumed notions of Iranian subjectivity and personhood in general.

“To create art, it is imperative for me to be vulnerable—extracting the personal truths driven by my Diaspora, history, nostalgia, self-awareness, and rebellion. Much of my work revolves around the struggles of womanhood and navigating personal identity as a hyphenated individual” said Taravat Talepasand. “However, I believe that art must possess an element of vulnerability in order to provoke change—socially, intellectually, and morally. In a world where ideas of culture, political and intellectual activities are evolving, what will this change mean for generations to come?”

The exhibition is a survey addressing the longstanding sociopolitical status of the women living under the theocratic regime and the Diaspora who fight against it. Visual metaphors highlight Iran’s history of censorship and suppression—that led to the formation of an allegorical language in the arts and literature. Together these aspects embody Talepasand’s aesthetics in a duo cultural context, and the unique combination makes her work widely accessible and interpretable to a broader audience. Some works in this exhibition have been questioned, scrutinized, and censored in recent times, ironically amplifying the artist’s lines of inquiry around erasure and control, while reiterating that the fight for female autonomy and human rights crosses borders, especially within the fraught relations between the United States and Iran.

طراوت | TARAVAT is not the artist’s first time exhibition with YBCA — Talepasand’s project Peace in the Middle East, which refers to the translation of the word “peace” in Farsi “ صلح” sculpted with neon, was featured in YBCA’s Bay Area Now 8 exhibition in 2018, and has been permanently installed in YBCA’s lobby since 2022.

“Taravat has been creating compelling, urgent work for many years, and her inclusion in YBCA’s Bay Area Now 8 was the start of a long-term connection that has resulted in artworks that have spoken to the public and created a dialogue for rigor, aesthetics, and awareness that is vital to our current moment” noted YBCA’s Director of Curatorial Projects & Public Experience Martin Strickland. “Exhibiting an uncensored presentation of طراوت | TARAVAT allows for a deeper contemplation of the artist’s practice, and creates space for a global dialogue around]the urgency of freedom of expression, personal history, and pathways for understanding the nuance of identity.”

Free and open to the as are all YBCA exhibitions, طراوت | TARAVAT will be on view at YBCA’s galleries from May 13 – July 23, 2023. The exhibition will be complemented by public programming throughout the summer to highlight the voices, struggles, and personal stories of artists in the Bay Area—and across the globe—who are carrying the torch of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement. For more information please visit

This mid-career survey was originally on view at the Law Warschaw Gallery at Macalester College from January 7–March 10, 2023.

About the Artist

Taravat Talepasand has exhibited nationally and internationally and is in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, de Young Museum, Yerba Buena Center of the Arts, Tufts University, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and the Orange County Museum of Art. Exhibitions included In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in the 2018 Bay Area Now 8 exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts, the 2010 California Biennial, and was the recipient of the 2010 Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellowship at the San Francisco Art Institute. She is a featured artist in Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art, edited by Hossein Amirsadeghi and the Documentary Pearls on The Ocean Floor by Robert Adanto. Taravat was the Department Chair of Painting at the San Francisco Art Institute and currently lives in Oregon and is the Assistant Professor of Art Practice at Portland State University School of Art + Design. Taravat received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2001 and MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2006.

About YBCA

Opened to the public in 1993, YBCA was founded as the cultural anchor of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens neighborhood. Our work spans the realms of contemporary art, performance, film, civic engagement, and public life. Centering artists as essential to social and cultural movement, YBCA is reimagining the role an arts institution can play in the communities it serves. For more information, visit


Ed Winstead
Vice President, Cultural Counsel
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Jo Urtasun
Account Coordinator, Cultural Counsel
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