A pioneer of modern art in Iran, Marcos Grigorian was an artist, teacher, gallerist, collector and curator. He organised the first national Tehran Biennial in 1958 after representing Iran in the 1956 Venice Biennale. Grigorian lived a nomadic life between the Soviet Union, Iran, Italy, the United States and Armenia. His diverse practice included performative photography as well as figurative and expressionist paintings that were often made with humble materials such as earth, straw, mud, found objects and perishable food. Through the use of these resources, Grigorian’s work can be read as a suggestive precursor to land art as we know it today; he engages at once with the locality and a global art language, without being derivative or overtly ethnic.
Half a Loaf (1966) is part of Grigorian's well-known pop art series connected to everyday rural life in Iran. Half-eaten bread sits in the midst of natural materials, including soil, sand and mud, to create textured surfaces referencing parched land and the adobe houses found in local Iranian villages. His work Pistachios #1 (1968) is composed of pistachios painted in brown pigment that are fixed to a minimalist base of mud and straw framed by two painted square borders. The repetition of the rectangular shape and the uniform use of colour reflect a refined minimalism, a penchant for a structured geometry and an expression of local popular culture. The work also references the ornate arrangements of pistachio packages in local markets and shop windows in Tehran, where they were a common souvenir and traditional gift item.