Zahra Nazari (b. 1985 in Hamedan, Iran; lives and works in New York City) is a painter, sculptor, and installation artist who focuses on architectural themes in multicultural contexts.

Born to a family of architecture enthusiasts, Nazari has pursued a career as a visual artist on the foundation of her memories from her youth, when she visited architectural dig sites to admire ancient history and artifacts in Iran.

Her work is therefore deeply influenced by ancient Persian architecture, such as the Safavid dynasty, and contemporary Iranian landscape, that she reflects through paintings, drawings, and installations.

Since her migration to the United States, her work has evolved into a formal blending of Persian and Western architectural styles, including European futurism. In fact,  the color universe in her paintings progressively transitioned from a dark and intimist palette to a more colorful and energetic brush stroke, reflecting her new way of life and perspectives as an immigrant in New York, and echoing the speed, technology, and industrial landscapes often represented in post-modern futurist art.

One of her most iconic works, Unification, is a 12-gauge stainless steel sculpture that was exhibited in the High Line Nine Gallery and in the Sculpture Space Garden. The work recontextualizes modern Persian architecture in a Western and futurist context. The hard work to sculpt the steel – a key material of Europe’s industrialization in the early 20th century when futurism expanded – is a metaphor for the effort to confront and unite both cultures into one element, hence delivering a powerful message to the public about the need for more multicultural perspectives and dialogue.

Nazari has given artist talks and participated as a panelist at institutions including NYU, Columbia University, Cooper Union, and Pratt Institute in New York City. Her work has been reviewed and published in Artefuse, Hamptons Art Hub, Hyperallergic, Whitehot Magazine, ZH Magazine, and more. Her works are included in private and public collections worldwide.

Nazari has exhibited both nationally and internationally in museums and galleries including: The Bronx Museum of the Arts – NY, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art – NY, High Line Nine Gallery – NY, MANA Contemporary – NJ, Spartanburg Art Museum – SC, Masur Museum of Art – LA, New York Academy of Art – NY, Denise Bibro Fine Art – NY, Illinois Institute of Art – IL, China Millennium Monument, Beijing – China, Lite-Haus Galerie, Berlin – Germany, Saba Institution, and Baran Gallery in Tehran, Iran.

Nazari has been a recipient of the Creative Engagement Grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, NY; FST StudioProjects Fund, NY; the AIM Fellowship from the Bronx Museum, NY; a Visiting Artist Fellowships from MASS MoCA and Cooper Union. She has been an artist in residence at Sculpture Space in Utica – NY, and Vermont Studio Center – VT, as well as several others.

Nazari received her BFA from the School of Art & Architecture in Tabriz, Iran, and her MFA from the State University of New York in New Paltz in 2014.



“Working from both photographs and memory, while allowing for improvisation and invention, Nazari rarely renders whole buildings in her paintings. Instead, she paints excerpts especially significant for her—a section of ceiling with its elaborate details, a particular sequence of windows or vaults, floral patterning, part of a wall—which she combines with abstract gestures and shapes, other forms resembling jumbled architectural fragments, and intermingling colors. Architecture is never static in these works, but instead unstable, changeable, often vertiginous, and under duress (the Ali Qapu Palace, incidentally, ravaged by environmental and political forces, was at one point a ransacked ruin). Construction and deconstruction share close quarters in Nazari’s work.

Many of Nazari’s abstract forms, or what Western viewers might normally think of as abstract forms, including prominent angles, jutting bands, arcs, cross-hatching, rudimentary geometric shapes, and irregular color blocks, derive more from Persian architecture than Western abstract painting. Domes, vaults, honeycombed muqarnas, arabesques, eight-pointed stars, latices, and minarets—all of these, however, transformed, are recurring motifs. Also fascinating to note is that the colors in Nazari’s distinctive palate, including various purples, soft reds, golds, tawny browns, oranges, and rich blues, are especially important and meaningful in Persian architecture, and have been for centuries.

Nazari often combines multiple views of the same building, or a portion of that building, in a single painting, in a way that scrambles and shifts the viewer’s perspective; very often one is not at all sure whether one is looking up or down, at something distant or close—visual manifestations of cultural and personal disorientation. In Nazari’s Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque (2020), you look at this structure, or portions of it, from afar, but simultaneously from within it; at parts of its façade from a distance but also from inside at sections of its interior ceiling(s). With rich blue, gold, red, and purple tones, this vivid, composite scene is also curiously vaporous, like a slippery memory or a receding dream—an effect augmented by how Nazari has left large portions of the painting bright white.”

Gregory Volk, catalog essay for Unification, Zahra Nazari solo exhibition at High Line Nine Gallery, NYC, 2021.