Texts by Robert Storr, Laura Cumming, interview by Elena GeunaRead more
The works by the Iranian American artist Y.Z. Kami, co-published by Skira and Gagosian.
Over the past thirty years, Y.Z. Kami has built a resounding oeuvre that spans both portraiture and abstraction, using direct observation, poetic reference, and repeated geometries to create poignant evocations of the sublime. This comprehensive monograph explores the breadth of Kami’s work with over 300 color illustrations, and texts by leading scholars and curators Robert Storr, Laura Cumming, and Elena Geuna.
Y.Z. Kami’s large-scale portraits recreate the visceral experience of a face-to-face encounter, suggesting a connection to the presence of each subject. Through a matte, uniform haze, he depicts his subjects with eyes open or closed, gazing forward or looking down. Kami’s focus on each individual’s face reveals an inner life beneath immediate appearancess—a feat that is particularly resonant in the context of contemporary portraiture.
Rendered in oil paint on linen, the portraits also recall Byzantine frescoes or Fayum funerary portraits, continuing the art historical quest to locate the unknown and the infinite within material form. In his abstract work, Kami continues this interplay of surface and interior, using forms inspired by architecture, geometry, and poetry. In the Endless Prayers series, prayers and verses in Persian, Hebrew, Arabic, and Sanskrit are cut into rectangular fragments and pasted into mandala formations, their spiraling patterns echoing the repetitive nature of prayer. Comprised of square or rectangular marks arranged in concentric circles, the Dome paintings create tessellated, pulsing voids—as if passing from darkness into light.
Y.Z. Kami was born in Tehran, Iran in 1956. His work has been collected and exhibited by major museums worldwide. Solo institutional exhibitions include Portraits by Y.Z. Kami, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (2003); the 52nd Biennale di Venezia (2007); Perspectives: Y.Z. Kami, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (2008); Y.Z. Kami: Endless Prayers, Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London (2008); Y.Z. Kami: Beyond Silence, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (2009–10); and Y.Z. Kami: Endless Prayers, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), CA (2016–17).