Ala Ebtekar | USA

Ascension I, 2007

Ink and acrylic on 19th century manuscript
131x206x4 cm

Courtesy of the Collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky

Ala Ebtekar earned his MFA from Stanford University and currently lives in Palo Alto, California. His drawings, prints, and installations explore contrasts between traditional Iranian and contemporary hip-hop cultures. Growing up in the Bay Area with activist Iranian parents in exile, he developed a unique identity.

In "Ascension" (2007), Ala Ebtekar portrays a legendary figure called Buraq, part human and part horse and peacock, who helped Muhammad ascend to heaven. Here she rises like a Western Pegasus/Phoenix above the ashes of war. The artist establishes the background by pasting pages from Islamic prayer books to the canvas. Bomb and clouds, lyrically painted in a Tibetan tanka style, float gracefully around the figure.

In this over-lifesize painting, the political and the spiritual dramatically converge. Apprenticed to a miniaturist painter, Ebtekar is one of a growing number of artists inspired by the tradition of manuscript illumination that flourished in European monasteries during the Middle Ages and at the courts of Persian and Mogul rulers through the nineteenth century.

Text: Barbara Matilsky