ICY and SOT's stencils first began to garner attention in the 2000s in the streets of Tabriz, a city in northern Iran. Since then the two brothers have been perfecting their mastery over this technique, while expanding their artistic practice to a wide range of other mediums: sculpture, installations, photography, performances… "We decided that whatever idea we had," say the artists, "we would make it happen in whatever medium or material that makes the work stronger."
It is therefore the idea, or more precisely the message, that guides the production of the artist duo. Since the stencils of their debut, the message—always political—plays a central role in their work. ICY & SOT produce an art that one may call, in the noblest sense, literal: an art that seeks, and finds, the shortest way to communicate.
The two brothers are indeed genuinely determined to speak out. In Iran, their work has led them to be apprehended and even detained several times by the police. The risks of severe punishments were real. Real, too, for the artists, the need to stand up against the authoritarianism of the Islamic Republic.
In 2012, ICY & SOT emigrated to the United States, where they found a safe haven that would allow them to grow and bring their artistic practice to maturity. They are now well-known figures on the international urban art scene. More than ever, they continue to be part of a long and rich tradition of political art. Among the issues that they typically address: war, gender inequalities, state brutality, damage induced by the market economy, the plight of refugees and the environmental crisis.
It is then a picture of our contemporary world that paints the Iranian duo, with all its flaws, breakdowns and tragedies. However ICY & SOT are never guilty of resignation or fatalism. Their work is beaming with hope and resilience. The destiny of these two artists is already in itself one reason not to despair of the world, for ICY & SOT demonstrate that talent and perseverance sometimes have the power to overcome the trials of life.
ICY (born in 1985) and SOT (born in 1991) grew up in Iran and now live in New York City. Artists of international renown, they have exhibited their work among other places at the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art in Munich, at the Saatchi Gallery in London, or at the Museum of Fine Arts in Calais, France.