26 Questions for Anti-Patriarchal Painter Nicky Nodjoumi

Nicky Nodjoumi
(Courtesy of Taymour Grahne Gallery, New York)

Name: Nicky Nodjoumi

Age: 71

Occupation: Artist

City/Neighborhood: The independent state of Brooklyn, Greenpoint

Iranian politics figure heavily in your large oil paintings. Do you often draw inspiration from current events?

Yes and no. I follow the current events, especially in Iran, almost religiously. Aside from the world events, however, I have other preoccupations. Naturally, when I start to work the political events of the day occupy part of my mind, but imagination is also a part of the function of the mind. Inspirations that shape my work come from a lot of different places. Many of the works in the upcoming show at Taymour Grahne Gallery reflect this process. Throughout my lifetime, I have experienced some tumultuous events. I survived two dictatorial regimes: The Shah’s regime and the Islamic republic of Iran, which, under the guise of being “in the name of god,” is the most undemocratic and brutal regime I have ever known. So the notion of politics emerges as a central embodiment and concern in most of my paintings.  

You’ve said that you started painting fractured bodies after the start of the Iraq War in 2003. Why does that particular imagery resonate with you?

Actually, they emerged from a series of works I was doing which was called “Two Views.” At the time of Iraq War it evolved into the depiction of fractured bodies in my paintings. It was the suicide bombings and the extreme violence that captured my attention. I wanted to somehow show the body parts and the devastation, but not in a sentimental way. I wanted a more detached and conceptual approach to depicting violence.

Your show will be the inaugural exhibition for Taymour Grahne’s new gallery. Have you worked with Grahne in the past?

No, I have not. I knew of him as an enthusiastic collector of Middle Eastern art and an art blogger. Several months ago, through an introduction by a mutual friend, we met and at that time he told me that he was opening a gallery in NYC and for his first exhibition, he wanted to show my work. And here we are.  

Some have pointed to your works as critiques of patriarchal structures. Do you feel that is true?

It is true that my work is a critique of patriarchal structures, but not limited to those of the Middle East.  And all of it with a hint of humor. 

What project are you working on now?

I always like to revisit on my older works. Recently, I got back a bunch of pieces that had been in storage for a while and I have been working on them.

What’s the last show that you saw?

Paul McCarthy at Hauser & Wirth.

What’s the last show that surprised you? Why?

The sculptures of Ugo Rondinone at Barbara Gladstone’s. When I entered the gallery I felt this strange feeling, with all those figures composed of pieces of stones siting on top of each other — small and large. It had a spiritual effect.   

Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.

I get up 6:30 a.m., I am in the gym from 7 until 9. On the way back home, I get my morning coffee and the newspaper. After breakfast and going through the paper I check my emails and the news from Iran, then about 11 a.m. I start working on whatever is left from the previous day. At about 12:30 I will have lunch while checking the Internet for news. After lunch I start working until 6 p.m. Then it’s time for dinner and a drink while watching the news on TV. At 7 I start working again until about 10. Watch Charlie Rose or a movie, then go to sleep. That would be the end of my day. 

Do you make a living off your art?


What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

The ink brush.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

I find ideas in newspaper clippings and current events; while walking or in bed, or I conjure them up in my imagination. My upcoming show at Taymour Grahne Gallery includes a table of my process collages, which shows how these different and conflicted ideas are assembled, cut & pasted, and drawn upon to shape the final result.

Do you collect anything?

Newspaper clippings and photographs.

What is your karaoke song?

I do not have one.

What’s the last artwork you purchased?

A drawing from my late friend Ardeshir Mohasses.

What’s the first artwork you ever sold?

1974, in the New Talent show in the Forum gallery, a pencil drawing showing a sitting man shooting in the dark.

What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

A topless, but otherwise elaborately dressed, middle-aged woman checking the art in the gallery.

What’s your art-world pet peeve?

The power.

What’s your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

The Greek restaurant at the corner of 9th Ave and 23rd Street for cheap wine and hamburgers — and sometimes we go to this small restaurant on 10th Ave by the name of Pepe Giallo.

Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?

Yes. At least once a month I get together with several friends and check out some galleries.

What’s the last great book you read?

“The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East,” by Charles Tripp.

What work of art do you wish you owned?

There are many. I cannot name them all.

What would you do to get it?

I do not think I would be able to get even on of them.

What international art destination do you most want to visit?


What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?

There are lots of Iranian artists, old and young, living and working in NY right now who are under-appreciated and in some cases have never been seen before.

Who’s your favorite living artist?

Eric Fischl, Mark Tansey, Neo Rauch, Kiki Smith, Shirin Neshat and many more.

What are your hobbies?