Dawood Rustai, renowned Iranian-American artist, dies at 63

Iranian-American artist Dawood Rustai died suddenly this week in Los Angeles, where he has been calling home for the past 23 years, his Anderson Group publicists told TheWrap on Friday.

Rustai was born in Iran in 1959 and studied at the Tehran Academy of Fine Arts in the late 1970s until the Islamic Revolution made that impossible. He was imprisoned for two years for his art, which the new regime considered subversive. After his release, he sought refuge in Hamburg, Germany, where he adopted the “New Wilde” neo-expressionist style. He abandoned brushes and began to paint only with his fingers, and then created a technique he called cryptorealism.

As he explained in 2022, “Cryptorealism is the expression of hidden meaning revealed through layered imagery that requires the active participation of the observer.”

Notable collectors of Rustai’s work include Paul McCartney, Anthony Hopkins and Hillary Clinton. His paintings are currently exhibited at the Beijing Museum of Modern Art, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Pashmin Art Gallery in Shanghai and Hamburg.

In May 2022, he offered to sell some of his paintings for the benefit of the people of Ukraine. Many of them have been sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I’m very glad I can help,” he told NewsNation at the time. “As a survivor of political injustice and survivor of both revolution and war, it always touches me deeply that others experience the same. What is happening in Ukraine right now is really appalling.”

In January, Los Angeles-based art critic Peter Frank wrote about Roostaei in Whitehot Magazine, saying: “The artist himself, thrown by the waves of history—not just the history of art, but the history of mankind—has developed a method of displaying and hiding both image and meaning. . …”

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