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Iranian Street Art Finds Its Way To L.A.

Iranian customs agents are extremely controlling when it comes to imagery. It was therefore surprising to curator Shervin Shahbazi, that they let the depiction of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's biggest rival, Mir-Hossein Mousavi (below), slip through without a hitch. Some less overtly political images were not as successful in their journey to the U.S.

Those that made it are currently on display at the Crewest Gallery in Los Angeles. In an interview on All Things Considered today, Shahbazi, who organized the exhibit, says he felt compelled to present a different image; one that didn't involve nukes or Ahmadinejad's awkward grin.

The show, called From the Streets of Iran, aims to draw "attention to what goes on in Iran because it might sound cliche, but people have to learn there are other things than a nuclear power plant and a president who's out of his mind."

"Together" by Hushidar Mortezaie Courtesy Morono Kiang Gallery hide caption

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Courtesy Morono Kiang Gallery

Shahbazi found the Iranian graffiti artists on the Internet, but he doesn't know their real names or ages. Asking too many questions could potentially put them in danger, he explains. Regardless, the pieces are selling quickly.

Down the street from the Crewest Gallery, Shahbazi is curating a second exhibit called Traces of Being, a collection of mixed-media and installation work by Iranian-Americans. The connection between the two exhibits is not immediately apparent. But, according to Shahbazi, both a mini-skirt on a mannequin and a riot on a wall are political statements.

"The youth of Iran are like fashion peacocks and their social defiance is basically their fashion revolution," says fashion designer Hushidar Mortezaie, whose work is featured in the show.

Perhaps this explains why few young artists in Tehrangeles or Tehran would be caught dead in a suit along the lines of Ahmadinejad's.

"Chic Boutique" by Hushidar Mortezaie Courtesy Morono Kiang Gallery hide caption

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Courtesy Morono Kiang Gallery

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