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Siah Armajani, Prayer for the Sun, 1962
oil on canvas, 48 1/4 x 32 inches (122.6 x 81.3 cm)
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection
Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.81


Armajani arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1960 to attend Macalester College, and he painted Prayer for the Sun while a student of philosophy there. At first glance the work appears completely abstract. Upon closer examination, however, one can detect letters in Arabic script that Armajani scratched and buried in the two ovoid forms that seem to represent celestial bodies.
1 His act of inscribing nearly illegible letters into the surface of a painting profoundly explores the pictorial relationship between words and images that fascinated both Armajani and his contemporaries.

1. Although Persian and Arabic are completely separate languages, they are both written in a script known as Arabic, and their alphabets share many of the same letters.