Yektai: An Ascension Through the Generations

(This article first appeared in the November 1, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


Growing up in an artistic household creates unique circumstances. Trips to the ballpark are replaced with excursions to European museums. Patriarch of the Yektai family, Manoucher Yektai’s cultural exploration through Iran, France, and the United States has made him a well-known Abstract Expressionist painter for the better part of the last century. Like father like sons, as Nico and Darius followed in their father’s footsteps years later.

The show “Yektai” is running at Guild Hall through December 31. After seeing his sculpture “The Ascension, ” chief curator Christina Strassfield felt Darius should have his own show. It includes his father’s and brother’s works as well.

“In the art world, people like to believe that lightning can’t strike twice in the same place,” contemporary artist, Darius, expressed.

“In a way, I benefitted when my father removed himself from the art world. He had been everywhere and had all the attention that he needed. In fact, he pushed away a lot more attention than he should have. He left room for us to step forward and be artists in our own right.”

As children, Nico, furniture maker, and Darius observed their father working in the studio without distraction. Manoucher’s concentration profoundly relayed the message that a true work needs no approval. “That existential kind of doing of something long enough justifies itself. The ends justify the means,” Darius remembered. “Growing up and seeing him, the devotion he had to his work — he was in the studio, very serious.”

Manoucher’s emphasis of the surface in his works indirectly spoke of art history and the dialogue before him. By leaving the staples on the edge of his work, he reminds the viewer that “it’s a stretched volume.” To his sons, this was an understanding, a lesson based on truth.

Fast forward to today, the language is still being spoken. Darius’s works are open narratives with a magnetic push and pull between sculpture and painting art forms. “In order for a painting to be honest it needs to tell you what it truthfully is. No matter how close you get them [sculpture and painting], they never become sealed to the other.”

Nico’s furniture is reminiscent of their father’s brushstrokes. The planks or blocks of wood are in harmony with Manoucher’s thick, layered canvas pieces. In a circle of influence, Darius sculpts with pieces of wood tossed aside from Nico’s cut off pieces, “the negative space.”

Like many working families encouraging the next generation to follow in their father, or mother’s, footsteps, the possibility of becoming a professional artist was always there for Nico and Darius. In Darius’s case, it took studying geology at Occidental College in California for him to make the transition. “Geology is f***ing awesome!” Darius enthusiastically exclaimed. “It’s like a puzzle and a clue. A lot of the math and the things I studied in the sciences ended up in my paintings. You can go up to the surface of my paintings and you can see the layering.”

It’s through love, respect, and admiration that a father’s passion transcends time and ascends through the generations. Each drop of paint, each new work, a new lesson about life.

Darius smiled. “My father used to say you’re an artist now. You have to get to a place where you’re above all [the drama], that you can be in love with that rock, that tree, and all the love you need is there.”


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