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View of “Parviz Tanavoli,” 2015. Background, from left: Big Heech Lovers, 2007; Twisted Heech, 2007. Foreground, from left: Horizontal Heech Lovers, 2008; Standing Heech Lovers, 2007. Photo: Charles Mayer.

Parviz Tanavoli

Davis Museum at Wellesley College

View of “Parviz Tanavoli,” 2015. Background, from left: Big Heech Lovers, 2007; Twisted Heech, 2007. Foreground, from left: Horizontal Heech Lovers, 2008; Standing Heech Lovers, 2007. Photo: Charles Mayer.

PARVIZ TANAVOLI recalls that, as a teenager, he signed up for the first modern sculpture class ever offered in his native Iran. The year was 1952, and the course was almost canceled—not just because Tanavoli was its only student, but because there was no one to teach it. Iran’s nascent modern art scene had no sculptors to speak of, and art training was strictly academic. A European-trained painter was eventually found to run the course, but Iranian arts pedagogy would remain old-fashioned; Tanavoli’s senior-year project was completed under the stern eye of a colonel whose own practice involved carving busts of the shah for public squares. Tanavoli would continue his fine-arts education abroad, returning to Iran in the 1960s to design the curriculum for Tehran’s College of Decorative Arts—the training ground for the nation’s first recognizable modern art movement, the

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